Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

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 Forty-five percent of teachers say their school is outfitted with technology that is too outdated to be helpful, the report found.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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How Brexit Affects Global Technology Industry

Brexit-Affects

Brexit has officially happened, and the implications of the vote to leave the European Union has raised many questions for the global technology industry.

In Britain, a majority of tech firms were against leaving the E.U. A technology industry group survey found that 87 percent of British technology firms wanted to stay in the European Union, and that 70 percent of them worried a vote to leave would damage London’s reputation as a technology hub. Global companies with offices in Britain, such as Microsoft, also campaigned against the move.

Now that the votes have been cast, here are some major issues facing the tech industry in Britain and abroad, in light of the decision.

Data flow and data privacy: The U.S. and the E.U. are in the process of making the final adjustments to their latest data privacy agreement, which governs the flow of data between U.S. and Europe. With a major player in the E.U. now backing out of the coalition, there are obviously some questions about what happens to data flowing in and out of Britain from the U.S. and elsewhere.

Despite the referendum results, however, things in this area will remain with the status quo — for now.

“The Data Protection Act remains the law of the land irrespective of the referendum result,” confirmed the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office, but added that the Brexit does mean that the U.K. will not be subject to upcoming reforms the E.U. is planning to make around data protection.

However, Britain is unlikely to deviate from the policies of the E.U. in this particular area, simply because E.U. standards have become basically standard around the world. Should Britain shy away from those regulations, experts said, it would face dire consequences.

“It will be left out of the group of progressive and forward looking countries with suitable safeguards for personal data,” wrote privacy law expert Eduardo Ustaran ahead of the vote.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the Brexit will have no effect on the world’s data economy. There is also a sense, now that Britain has voted to leave the E.U., that the counterweight it provided against privacy-heavy countries such as Germany and France will also disappear. Germany and France have been leading the charge against major American tech firms -- notably Google, with the “right to be forgotten” ruling.

“This will help strengthen calls from the E.U. member states more concerned about protecting privacy rights,” said privacy advocate Jeff Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Some are optimistic that, with fewer E.U. regulations, British companies would thrive. But the uncertainty in the immediate aftermath of the vote makes some uneasy.

“Europe is such an important economy, it would be a shame if this and some existing policy proposals by some in the E.U. came into effect in a way that dampened the ability to use technology and grow their economies,” said Ed Black, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association.

Funding: One of the key reasons that many British technology firms said they were against a British exit from the E.U. was that it would be more difficult for them to secure funding for start-ups. London’s technology industry has been on the rise for the past several years.

Britain benefits in large part from funds such as the European Investment Fund, which backs an estimated 41 percent of venture capital investments in Europe. Its majority investor is the European Investment Bank.

But if Britain is no longer a part of Europe, that dries up a source of funding just as questions about how a U.K. shorn of its E.U. ties will regulate health tech, financial tech and other technology industries.

For its part, the EIF has said that it will continue business as usual for the time being. But the vote has injected a note of uncertainty into the start-up market, as Britain will now have to make its own negotiations with the fund.

“The European Investment Fund takes note, with regret, of the vote of the British people to leave the European Union,” the group said in a statement. “EIF will actively engage with the EIB and relevant European institutions to define the EIF’s activity in the UK as part of the broader discussions to determine the future relationship of the UK with Europe and European bodies."

Others also have financial concerns. For example, the video game industry in particular has said that it's worried that the new tax environment won't be as favorable to it as the E.U.'s has been.

Immigration: British tech firms — and technology firms from around the globe with offices there — have also raised concerns that the Brexit will fundamentally harm the tech industry’s ability to fill positions for highly skilled workers. Without the E.U.’s allowances to let workers move freely between countries, British companies are now worried about a shortage of qualified workers. That might be something that gets ironed out in a later agreement. But right now, there are plenty of expat workers in and outside of Britain that are raising questions about how Brexit affects their lives.

The concerns echo the talking points of the tech industry’s calls for immigration reform in the U.S. right now. The tech industry has repeatedly said that it needs to be able to recruit highly skilled foreign-born workers from across the globe in order to meet its labor demands.

Todd Schulte, president of the U.S. immigration group FWD.us, said that while the situations between the U.S. and Britain are obviously different, the need for support for a foreign-born workforce is not.

“In a globalized economy, when you’re trying to sell to the world, a diverse workforce is an asset,” he said.

There are also worries that companies that looked to London as an ideal place to start a company will now look elsewhere. Some start-ups have already begun to evaluate whether London is still the right place for their offices.

"To us, it was obvious to have London as a headquarters for all of Europe," said Allan Martinson, chief operating officer of the delivery startup Starship Technologies. "Today we may need to look for another location if we're working with continental Europeans."

Read Article (Hayley Tsukayama | washingtonpost.com | 06/24/2016)

Leading countries in the digital era have prospered through the sharing of methodologies, agreements and policies. To suddenly stand-apart, exposes one’s self to unknown ramifications.

We can only hope that nothing negative results from this decision.

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AI: We’re Children Playing with a Bomb (4 of 4)

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“Maybe. At any time in history it seems to me there can only be one official global concern. Now it is climate change, or sometimes terrorism. When I grew up it was nuclear Armageddon. Then it was overpopulation. Some are more sensible than others, but it is really quite random.”

Bostrom’s passion is to attempt to apply some math’s to that randomness. Does he think that concerns about AI will take over from global warming as a more imminent threat any time soon?

“I doubt it,” he says. “It will come gradually and seamlessly without us really addressing it.”

If we are going to look anywhere for its emergence, Google, which is throwing a good deal of its unprecedented resources at deep learning technology (not least with its purchase in 2014 of the British pioneer DeepMind) would seem a reasonable place to start. Google apparently has an AI ethics board to confront these questions, but no one knows who sits on it. Does Bostrom have faith in its “Don’t be evil” mantra?

“There is certainly a culture among tech people that they want to feel they are doing something that is not just to make money but that it has some positive social purpose. There is this idealism.”

Can he help shape the direction of that idealism?

“It is not so much that one’s own influence is important,” he says. “Anyone who has a role in highlighting these arguments will be valuable. If the human condition really were to change fundamentally in our century, we find ourselves at a key juncture in history.” And if Bostrom’s more nihilistic predictions are correct, we will have only one go at getting the nature of the new intelligence right.

Last year Bostrom became a father. (Typically his marriage is conducted largely by Skype – his wife, a medical doctor, lives in Vancouver.) I wonder, before I go, if becoming a dad has changed his sense of the reality of these futuristic issues?

“Only in the sense that it emphasizes this dual perspective, the positive and negative scenarios. This kind of intellectualizing, that our world might be transformed completely in this way, always seems a lot harder to credit at a personal level. I guess I allow both of these perspectives as much room as I can in my mind.”

At the same time as he entertains those thought experiments, I suggest, half the world remains concerned where its next meal is coming from. Is the threat of superintelligence quite an elitist anxiety? Do most of us not think of the longest-term future because there is more than enough to worry about in the present?

“If it got to the point where the world was spending hundreds of billions of dollars on this stuff and nothing on more regular things then one might start to question it,” he says. “If you look at all the things the world is spending money on, what we are doing is less than a pittance. You go to some random city and you travel from the airport to your hotel. Along the highway you see all these huge buildings for companies you have never heard of. Maybe they are designing a new publicity campaign for a razor blade. You drive past hundreds of these buildings. Any one of those has more resources than the total that humanity is spending on this field. We have half a floor of one building in Oxford, and there are two or three other groups doing what we do. So I think it is OK.”

And how, I ask, might we as individuals and citizens think about and frame these risks to the existence of our species? Bostrom shrugs a little. “If we are thinking of this very long time frame, then it is clear that very small things we do now can make a significant difference in that future.”

A recent paper of Bostrom’s, which I read later at home, contains a little rule of thumb worth bearing in mind. Bostrom calls it “maxipok”. It is based on the idea that “the objective of reducing existential risks should be a dominant consideration whenever we act out of an impersonal concern for humankind as a whole.” What does maxipok involve? Trying to “maximize the probability of an ‘OK outcome’ where an OK outcome is any outcome that avoids existential catastrophe.”

It certainly sounds worth a go.

Read Article (Tim Adams | theguardian.com | 06/12/2016)

It really seems that as we push digital evolution into the future we are unwittingly pushing our own mental evolution along with it. Wow, wrap your brain around that! Maybe one day we will clone a human brain as the CPU of a super-computer.

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