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Monday, August 21, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg's paternity leave plan 08-21

As he did after the birth of his first child in 2015, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is taking two months’ paternity leave from the company when his second daughter arrives. This time, Zuckerberg will break up the leave, spending one month at home with his children and wife Priscilla Chan right after the baby’s birth and taking the rest of the leave in December.

Zuckerberg is using only half of the four months of paid parental leave that Facebook allots male and female employees. It’s still far more time than the typical father takes off work for the birth of a child in the US, where only 15% of companies in a national survey last year offered paid paternity leave.
The lack of paid leave for men hurts parents who want to share the experience of caring for their babies, and contributes to the persistent lag in women’s wages and workforce participation. Fully paid paternity leave is key to breaking a vicious cycle in which employers pay women less and bypass them for promotions in anticipation that they’ll take time off to raise children, making the lower-earning female partner the natural choice to take unpaid or partially paid leave that’s ostensibly offered to both parents.

As Quartz’s Gwynn Guilford pointed out in a 2014 analysis of parental leave policies in Sweden and Japan, the more parental leave men take, the sooner women go back to work. A 2010 study in Sweden found that a woman’s future earnings rose 7% for every month her partner took under the country’s paid parental leave system, which incentivizes both parents to take time off. Sweden has one of the world’s highest rates of working women, and a nearly non-existent wage gap.

But it’s not enough for companies to offer paternity leave. Men have to actually take it, and this is where Zuckerberg’s decision to make his family plans public is significant. In a 2014 survey by the Working Mother Research Institute, men reported a significant gap between the availability of family-friendly, flexible working policies and the degree to which they were encouraged to take them. Those who did feel supported by their employers reported more satisfaction with the company, their careers, and their home lives.

“At Facebook, we offer four months of maternity and paternity leave because studies show that when working parents take time to be with their newborns, it’s good for the entire family,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “And I’m pretty sure the office will still be standing when I get back.”
Meanwhile, there’s no better way to encourage employee behavior than to lead by example.

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Researchers Make Surprising Discovery About How Neurons Talk to Each Other 08-21

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have uncovered the mechanism by which neurons keep up with the demands of repeatedly sending signals to other neurons. The new findings, made in fruit flies and mice, challenge the existing dogma about how neurons that release the chemical signal dopamine communicate, and may have important implications for many dopamine-related diseases, including schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and addiction.

The research conducted at Pitt and Columbia University was published online today in the journal Neuron.

Neurons communicate with one another by releasing chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and glutamate, into the small space between two neurons that is known as a synapse. Inside neurons, neurotransmitters awaiting release are housed in small sacs called synaptic vesicles.

“Our findings demonstrate, for the first time, that neurons can change how much dopamine they release as a function of their overall activity. When this mechanism doesn’t work properly, it could lead to profound effects on health,” explained the study’s senior author Zachary Freyberg, M.D., Ph.D., who recently joined Pitt as an assistant professor of psychiatry and cell biology. Freyberg initiated the research while at Columbia University.

When the researchers triggered the dopamine neurons to fire, the neurons’ vesicles began to release dopamine as expected. But then the team noticed something surprising: additional content was loaded into the vesicles before they had the opportunity to empty. Subsequent experiments showed that this activity-induced vesicle loading was due to an increase in acidity levels inside the vesicles.

“Our findings were completely unexpected,” said Freyberg. “They contradict the existing dogma that a finite amount of chemical signal is loaded into a vesicle at any given time, and that vesicle acidity is fixed.”

The team then demonstrated that the increase in acidity was driven by a transport channel in the cell’s surface, which allowed an influx of negatively charged glutamate ions to enter the neuron, thus increasing its acidity. Genetically removing the transporter in fruit flies and mice made the animals less responsive to amphetamine, a drug that exerts its effect by stimulating dopamine release from neurons.

“In this case, glutamate is not acting as a neurotransmitter. Instead it is functioning primarily as a source of negative charge, which is being used by these vesicles in a really clever way to manipulate vesicle acidity and therefore change their dopamine content,” Freyberg said. “This calls into question the whole textbook model of vesicles as having fixed amounts of single neurotransmitters. It appears that these vesicles contain both dopamine and glutamate, and dynamically modify their content to match the conditions of the cell as needed.”

In the future, the team plans to look more closely at how increases in vesicle acidification affect health. A number of brain diseases are characterized by abnormal dopamine neuron signaling and altered levels of the neurotransmitter.

“Since we have demonstrated that the balance between glutamate and dopamine is important for controlling the amount of dopamine that a neuron releases, it stands to reason that an imbalance between the two neurotransmitters could be contributing to symptoms in these diseases,” said Freyberg.

This article has been republished from materials provided by UPMC. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.



Dohe ka Alu Poha 08-20

ये दोहा मन को भाया, बस चुरा लिया, आशा हैं, आप को भी पसंद आएगा।

तन से भारी साँस हैं,
इसे समझलो खूब। 
मुर्दा जल में तैरता,
जिन्दा जाता डूब। 

कवी नीरज जी ने लिखा हैं इसे। 

अब इसका अनुवाद जनाब गूगल (Google) अंग्रेजी में कर रहे। 

अगर इसे आप समझ सके, तो, कृपया हमें भी समझाएगा।

There are heavy breaths from the tan,
Understand it a lot
Floating in dead water,
Surviving gets sinking.

Now the above text is translated back to Hindi again by Google.

तन से भारी श्वास है,
इसे बहुत कुछ समझें
मृत पानी में फ़्लोटिंग,
जीवित हो जाता है 

Try to connect this with the original Doha and its meaning.

Please don't tear your hair, if you can't

Just an experiment, hope you enjoyed it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Diversity of Play, does it improve cognitive development in children ???

How does play affect the cognitive development of children around the world? Doctoral candidate Lynneth Solis is looking to find out.

Play is an integral part of a child’s development according to traditional research mostly conducted in Western societies, but what role does play serve and what does it look like for children in indigenous communities? Ed.D. candidate Lynneth Solis, Ed.M.’10, is determined to better answer that question. 

Solis’ research focuses on children’s cognitive development, specifically how young children play with each other and with objects to understand and build theories about the world around them, and how this is shaped by their cultural context.

After completing her master's in the Mind, Brain, and Education Program in 2010, Solis spent the following year as a research assistant with Project Zero working alongside Principal Research Scientist in Education Tina Grotzer, looking at children’s understanding of complex causal patterns in science. It was through her work at PZ that Solis expanded her own research into children’s cognitive development and how they use objects to understand complex scientific phenomena such as friction, balance, and other physical concepts. This in turn led her to include looking at play in crosscultural settings.

In 2015, Solis — the recipient of a Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship through the Committee on General Scholarships at Harvard — spent a year working with and observing children in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia. (The Kogi settlement in which she worked is pictured below.) What she found, contrary to prior research, was that indigenous children were engaged in complex forms of play that hadn’t been documented before.

“In the past, researchers reported that indigenous children didn’t play in complex ways, but I found them pretending and involved in object play and construction similar to the way children in the West play,” Solis says. “But I also found ways children in these communities would spend time together socializing, enjoying each other’s company without outwardly appearing very playful at first glance, but involved in unstructured and positive experiences that we could call play.”

After interviewing parents, Solis discovered even more variation from the narrative older research told. While some parents felt play was not part of their culture, others believed play helped prepare children for the future inside and outside their community.

“They saw play as a way for children to feel more confident speaking, expressing themselves, and interacting with adults and other children within and outside their culture,” says Solis “They also expressed that they believed play could help their children to explore their environment, learn, and develop creativity.”

Grotzer says that Solis’ important ethnographic work is helping the field of children’s cognitive development better understand the diversity of play and its role in cultures outside the West, and understanding what parents and community members believe about play is crucial for designing educational interventions.

Kogi settlement in Colombia“Lynneth is able to set aside her own cultural assumptions to really ‘see’ what is going on and to interpret it through the eyes of the cultures that she is studying,” Grotzer says. “The stories of her work convey the extraordinary ability that Lynneth has to ‘become one’ with the children such that they have included her in their hidden worlds and have given us a rare window into their childhoods.”

It was critical to her research in Colombia, Solis says, to be trusted by children so that they would invite her into their play spaces. “When they said let's go to the river to swim, I went to the river, and when they went on crab hunts at the beach at night, I ran along the ocean with them,” she says. “This meant refraining from acting like an authority figure, so I became a curious companion who happened to always be writing notes and documenting their activities.”

Solis has also been working closely with the Lego Foundation, in partnership with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, to better understand the science of play to support learning, which she says is an important next step for the field.

“There’s a call for systematic research on play,” Solis says. “Up to this point there’s been a lot of correlational research, but now methodological advances get us closer to understanding the developmental mechanisms involved in play from a biological and neurological perspective. I feel like I’m on the beginning journey of that and it feels exciting.”

Solis’ work has not gone unrecognized. During her time at HGSE as a master's candidate she was named an Intellectual Contribution Award winner, and last year she was a Julius B. Richmond fellow at the Center on the Developing Child and AERA Minority Dissertation Fellow. While she is set to graduate next year, Solis plans on continuing her research to expand understanding of child development.

“I’m very interested in indigenous communities here in the States and abroad and expanding the stories we tell in child development,” Solis says. “It’s important to tell stories of diverse populations to really understand child development, and the more varied stories we tell, the more we understand.”

View at the original source

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Desktop Alert Named Best Mass Notification System by GSN 2017 Airport, Seaport, Border Security Awards 08-16

Desktop Alert, Inc., the patented system owner of less than one minute network-centric emergency mass notification systems (EMNS) to military, government, healthcare, higher education and industrial organizations, today announced that its industry leading mass notification communication platform, Desktop Alert 5.x has garnered three 1st place awards from Government Security News’ (GSN) 2017 Airport, Seaport, Border Security Awards.

Panel 2 of the Summit was moderated by Chuck Brooks, President for Government Relations and Marketing at Sutherland Global Services, who ran the most interactive panel of the day. With all guests being members of DC’s IT Tech elite and the subject of the panel being future threats and new defense technologies, the ballroom was buzzing with questions and discourse. It’s safe to say that this panel ran much like a think-tank, comprised of DC’s greatest tech minds and fueled by the spirit of collaborative learning.

Mr. Brooks has also been cited by Linkedin as one of the top 5 out of 500 million members to follow for emerging technology issues. Linkedin will also be featuring Chuck in their upcoming blogs as a cyber security SME and advisor.

Desktop Alert was named Best Mass Notification System and also a co-winner for Most Notable Implementation of new Technology – Solano Country Implementation of Desktop Alert and Safekey. Desktop Alert subsidiary Metis Secure Solutions also won for Best Alert Beacon System.
"We are honored to have been chosen as a multiple category winner. Our companies numerous years of products and services to the U.S. Army National Guard, U.S. Air National Guard and Northern Command proved pivotal in the award selection process," said Howard Ryan, Founder Desktop Alert Inc.

About Desktop Alert:   

Worldwide U.S. Military organizations such as U.S. Northern Command, The United States National Guard, The United States Air Force Academy, The United States Military Academy at West Point, Multi-National Forces in IRAQ and Afghanistan, The U.S. Air Force, The U.S. Army now utilize the Desktop Alert mass notification platform daily for their organizations emergency communication requirements. Desktop Alert can contact thousands of users with desktop alerts and require receipt confirmation of the message. Those not verified can then be listed on a report and/or sent as a "Target Package" to be automatically contacted by other means such as email, SMS, phone calls and other devices.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Man orders 50-inch TV on Amazon, gets 13-inch monitor 08-13

A resident of Mumbra, a town on Mumbai outskirts, is fighting for a refund from Amazon since past two months but to no avail.

Mumbra resident Mohammad Sarwar had ordered a 50-inch television set on Amazon's website in May and paid Rs 33,000 via credit card.

Sarwar received the package on time but was advised not to open it until a technician comes to install it.

"They said I may inadvertently damage the TV while opening the box. I left the box intact, which I now realise was a big mistake," he told Mirror.

When the technician arrived a day later, there was no TV inside the box but a 13-inch Acer monitor, which appeared to have been used before.

Sarwar has been fighting for a refund since then.

"I made several calls before a customer service agent said the refund would be issued only after I sent the package back. I was told I would have to bear the courier service charges. The suggestion left me furious, but I wanted my money back so I agreed," he said.

The story does not end here. A courier company refused to send the monitor as it didn't have an office near his house.

Meanwhile, Sarwar claims Amazon did not pay heed to his calls.

"The e-tailer's customer support took its own sweet time every time I called. It kept transferring my calls from one agent to another. I even sent emails and shared my grievance on social media. Nothing happened," he said.

An Amazon spokesperson told Mirror it was trying to resolve Sarwar's complaint. "We are in touch with the customer and are committed to resolving this at the earliest," the official said.

"I understand as an e-commerce site, they (Amazon) have their limits, but they can't keep me hanging after delivering a wrong product. I will take the matter to a court, if that's what will make them take customers seriously," said Sarwar.  

 View at the original source

Thursday, August 10, 2017

RBI's dividend to govt halves to Rs 30,659 crore 08-11

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will transfer Rs 30,659 crore of its surplus to the government for the financial year 2016-17, less than half of the Rs 65,876 crore it transferred a year earlier.

The RBI did not provide any reason for the decline in dividend but economists said this indicated the cost incurred by the central bank in printing new notes as well as in sterilising liquidity after old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes were scrapped in November and subsequently returned to the banking system.

The dividend paid is the lowest since 2011-12, when the RBI had transferred Rs 16,010 crore of its surplus to the government. In 2012-13, the central bank paid Rs 33,010 crore. The RBI’s financial year runs from July to June. The central bank is expected to publish its annual reports next week after its board met on Thursday to clear the accounts. 

In 2012-13, the YH Malegam Committee recommended the central bank transfer its entire surplus to the government. The RBI has been transferring its entire surplus to the government since then. It paid Rs 52,679 crore in 2013-14 and Rs 65,896 crore in 2014-15.

In the Union Budget for 2017-18, the government had accounted for a dividend of Rs 74,901 crore from the RBI and other nationalised banks. An official later said the RBI’s share would be Rs 58,000 crore. 

RBI Governor Urjit Patel told a parliamentary panel in July that the central bank had not finished counting the old returned notes. 

He has also said notes not returned remain the RBI’s liability and cannot be passed on to the government as dividend. 

The Union Budget had not accounted for any special dividend from the RBI against demonetisation, which some economists had estimated would be in the lakhs of crores of rupees.

The low actual dividends, meanwhile, will exert pressure on the government to meet its fiscal deficit. Care Ratings Chief Economist Madan Sabnavis said the fiscal deficit could increase from 3.2 per cent of the GDP to 3.4 per cent this year. At its peak, the excess liquidity parked by banks neared Rs 5 lakh crore, on which the central bank had to pay them 6 per cent interest. The average daily liquidity absorption continued to remain above Rs 2 lakh crore after demonetisation was announced.

According to Devendra Pant, chief economist of India Ratings & Research, the appreciation of the rupee against the dollar depressed returns, in rupee terms, on the RBI’s foreign holdings. The rupee has appreciated by more than 6 per cent against the dollar since January.

This Solar-Powered Car Is Designed To Be Affordable For Everyone 08-10

Electric cars have started to gain traction in the automotive market as the public desires a sustainable alternative to the traditional fossil fuel vehicles. Rather than develop an electric car to use electricity obtained from a standard grid, Sono Motors decided to take this concept a step further with Sion, a self-charging car that utilizes solar energy with solar panels wrapped around the exterior of the vehicle. The solar panels grant the owner the freedom to take their vehicle anywhere and know that the battery will consistently be charged.

The solar panels installed in the exterior do not protrude from the frame of the car; instead they hug the roof, rear, front and sides of the car and are covered in a layer of polycarbonate. Sono Motors created two models, an Extender and an Urban. On a full battery charge, the Extender can travel about 155 miles straight, while the Urban can go up to roughly 75 miles. Both of the models can drive for nearly 19 miles by simply sitting in the sun, before drawing power from the battery. Once the battery depletes, it takes 40 minutes to get 80% of the battery’s full power back through an electrical outlet, or half a day sitting in the sun.

Sustainable features extend to the inside of the vehicle, which contains an air filtering unit that uses a moss liner under the dashboard, called the breSono system. The moss, a special lichen, doesn’t require additional maintenance from the owner as the plants acquire the water they need to survive by absorbing it through the air. The plant also acts as a sound dampener to avoid hearing the engine and protects against potential fires.

Sustainable features extend to the inside of the vehicle, which contains an air filtering unit that uses a moss liner under the dashboard, called the breSono system. The moss, a special lichen, doesn’t require additional maintenance from the owner as the plants acquire the water they need to survive by absorbing it through the air. The plant also acts as a sound dampener to avoid hearing the engine and protects against potential fires.

The developers behind the Sion decided to bring the idea forward with an Indiegogo crowdfunding
campaign in 2016. While the vehicle cost €16,000, backers of the campaign did not have to offer all of this upfront. The developers broke it down into reasonably priced chunks, from €50 all the way to €14,080. Those who pledged more than €50 had the opportunity to get put at the front of the line to preorder the vehicle when they released it as well as the chance to test drive the car before anyone else. The Indiegogo campaign raised €180,000 for the Sion.

Sono Motors continues to accept preorders on their website. The company offers preorders at four price tiers: €500, €2,000,€8,000, and €14,720, which is the full price of the car. Those who plan to buy the Sion on one of the installment plans will eventually need to pay what they owe, but at a discount. If any parts of the vehicle require maintenance, owners can go through Sono Motors. Backers should receive their Sions sometime in 2019, but an exact date remains unknown.

View at the original source

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cybersecurity and cybersecurity professionals 08-10

From Bitcoin and Blockchain to hacks and ransomware, security is a hot topic in tech. According to a recent Cybersecurity Ventures Report, the cost of cybercrime damage is predicted to reach $6 trillion by 2021, and global spending on cybersecurity products and services for defending against cyber crime is projected to exceed $1 trillion by 2021. With that much at stake, the business world certainly has security on their minds.

It’s critical for technology marketers to stay on the pulse of today’s trends – and what better way to do so than by following influential peers on LinkedIn? To learn from today’s best writers, content curators, and opinion leaders on all things security, look no further.

Below, we’re showcasing five professionals providing a helpful portal into the world of security – those that can keep you — and your organization — in the know!

Bill Brenner, Infosec Scribe at Sophos

Bill has been on a number of “top tech” lists, and for good reason. He is active in the LinkedIn security community and focused on sharing real-time info about the current state of the industry. Following him ensures that you’ll be alerted about recent ransomware attacks – and fed great articles on how to combat it.

One of Bill’s recent posts shared an angle not often seen, talking about his own “Rockstar” status in the security world and how it caused his content and point of view to become stale. When an influencer takes time to step back and assess his or her influence and POV, it’s anything but stale; Bill is a breath of fresh air in an oftentimes cluttered conversation.

Tech marketer takeaway: If you think you’ve learned everything about a particular topic or industry, you’re probably wrong. As Bill put it, “Never stop seeking truth.” Your customers and prospects will thank you for this – it’s never fun talking to a person or company who thinks they have all the answers. Keep an open mind when it comes to new content, ideas and perspectives, and you’ll be a much better marketer for it!

Maya Schirmann, CMO at Deep Instinct

Maya is a great go-to connection when it comes to security marketing. Her company, Deep Instinct, is “the first company to apply deep learning to cybersecurity” and she also takes a “deep learning” approach to her own content. Tech marketers can benefit from her great approach to discussing security. As data breaches and hacks are in the headlines more often than not these days, Maya shares frequent helpful updates, podcasts and go-to lists on the all of the latest cybersecurity news. She also covers a number of insightful topics  in her published posts such as weak password management, “hacking highlights” and an Oscar-themed awards post containing actionable security advice for organizations both large and small.

Tech marketer takeaway: Creatively tying your topic of choice to current events and impactful discussions is a great way to get noticed – and it’ll pique the interest of potential customers. Tying content into interesting trends and current events is an effective way to set your content apart.

Steve Morgan, Founder & Editor-In-Chief, Cybersecurity Ventures

Steve is a veritable fountain of security info – he’s written dozens of reports on cybercrime, cybersecurity products and services, and launched the “Cybersecurity 500” list of the hottest cybersecurity companies to watch each year. He shares updates on cybersecurity employment, defense firms, hacks and data breaches – and how companies can be proactively preparing for their IT security futures. Many of his shared posts are helpful because they are so proactive – they often include step-by-step instructions for companies looking to boost their cybersecurity efforts, where to best spend their security budgets and what risks they should be most aware of and on the lookout for. Steve doesn’t just want companies to be in the know – he wants them to do something about it!

Tech marketer takeaway: Simply knowing about the current trends and buzzwords in an industry isn’t enough. To be truly effective as a security marketer, you must provide actionable insights to your customers and prospects. Everyone knows that cyberattacks can and will hit: but are you contributing to the conversation and equipping people who are preparing for the worst?

Yotam Gutman, VP Marketing at CyberDB

Yotam not only frequently posts interesting cybersecurity trends, he actively wants to engage and have meaningful discussions with his LinkedIn audience of almost 15,000 followers. He takes cybersecurity incredibly seriously and shares intricate, detailed data – but he also doesn’t shy away from sharing a fun story or video with his followers now and then. Yotam often attends IT security events around the world and takes the time to share what he’s learned –  reminding his followers and their companies that amongst the hustle and hype around cybersecurity, it’s important to define who you are and have a definitive brand for your organization.

Tech marketer takeaway: You don’t have to be a technical expert in all things security to come at this topic from a new angle and appeal to your tech buyers with your insights. Tech professionals want to be part of an active community that both gives out relevant info and engages in a more meaningful way (and events are a great way to do this). It’s all about the conversation!

Bob Carver, Manager of Network Security, Verizon

Bob knows his stuff when it comes to risk management, cyber resiliency and strategy, incident management and threat intelligence – he’s monitored tens of thousands of infected endpoints at Verizon, at one point overseeing the company’s Security Incident Response team. Follow Bob for a more in-depth take on many IT security conversations, from Botnet monitoring and cryptocurrency to the NSA. Bob’s content comes from the fact that he’s most likely “seen it all” throughout his career – and he wants to put that in-depth knowledge to good use for companies around the globe looking to proactively fight cyberattacks.

Tech marketer takeaway: A little technical in-depth info goes a long way. It might take some serious time and a lot of research to truly understand complex security topics that your customers care about – but it’s worth the hassle in the end.

As security is becoming more and more of a priority for many in the tech industry, it’s important to stay abreast of the latest security trends and innovations. These security leaders are invaluable within the LinkedIn technology community, and each showcases the true power of the LinkedIn network: that anyone can both access and participate in greater industry discussions across the globe. It’s time to take what we learn from them and put it into action!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

No, Facebook Did Not Panic and Shut Down an AI Program That Was Getting Dangerously Smart 08-04

Image credit : Shyam's Imagination Library

In recent weeks, a story about experimental Facebook machine learning research has been circulating
with increasingly panicky, Skynet-esque headlines.

“Facebook engineers panic, pull plug on AI after bots develop their own language,” one site wrote. “Facebook shuts down down AI after it invents its own creepy language,” another added. “Did we humans just create Frankenstein?” asked yet another. One British tabloid quoted a robotics professor saying the incident showed “the dangers of deferring to artificial intelligence” and “could be lethal” if similar tech was injected into military robots.

References to the coming robot revolution, killer droids, malicious AIs and human extermination abounded, some more or less serious than others. Continually quoted was this passage, in which two Facebook chat bots had learned to talk to each other in what is admittedly a pretty creepy way.

Bob: I can i i everything else

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

The reality is somewhat more prosaic. A few weeks ago, FastCo Design did report on a Facebook effort to develop a “generative adversarial network” for the purpose of developing negotiation software.

The two bots quoted in the above passage were designed, as explained in a Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research unit blog post in June, for the purpose of showing it is “possible for dialog agents with differing goals (implemented as end-to-end-trained neural networks) to engage in start-to-finish negotiations with other bots or people while arriving at common decisions or outcomes.”

The negotiation system’s GUI. Gif Credit: Facebook AI Research

The bots were never doing anything more nefarious than discussing with each other how to split an array of given items (represented in the user interface as innocuous objects like books, hats, and balls) into a mutually agreeable split.

The intent was to develop a chatbot which could learn from human interaction to negotiate deals with an end user so fluently said user would not realize they are talking with a robot, which FAIR said was a success:

“The performance of FAIR’s best negotiation agent, which makes use of reinforcement learning and dialog rollouts, matched that of human negotiators ... demonstrating that FAIR’s bots not only can speak English but also think intelligently about what to say.”

When Facebook directed two of these semi-intelligent bots to talk to each other, FastCo reported, the programmers realized they had made an error by not incentivizing the chatbots to communicate according to human-comprehensible rules of the English language. In their attempts to learn from each other, the bots thus began chatting back and forth in a derived shorthand—but while it might look creepy, that’s all it was.

“Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves,” FAIR visiting researcher Dhruv Batra said. “Like if I say ‘the’ five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn’t so different from the way communities of humans create shorthands.”
Facebook did indeed shut down the conversation, but not because they were panicked they had untethered a potential Skynet. FAIR researcher Mike Lewis told FastCo they had simply decided “our interest was having bots who could talk to people,” not efficiently to each other, and thus opted to require them to write to each other legibly.

But in a game of content telephone not all that different from what the chat bots were doing, this story evolved from a measured look at the potential short-term implications of machine learning technology to thinly veiled doomsaying.

There are probably good reasons not to let intelligent machines develop their own language which humans would not be able to meaningfully understand—but again, this is a relatively mundane phenomena which arises when you take two machine learning devices and let them learn off each other. It’s worth noting that when the bot’s shorthand is explained, the resulting conversation was both understandable and not nearly as creepy as it seemed before.

As FastCo noted, it’s possible this kind of machine learning could allow smart devices or systems to communicate with each other more efficiently. Those gains might come with some problems—imagine how difficult it might be to debug such a system that goes wrong—but it is quite different from unleashing machine intelligence from human control.

In this case, the only thing the chatbots were capable of doing was coming up with a more efficient way to trade each others’ balls.

There are good uses of machine learning technology, like improved medical diagnostics, and potentially very bad ones, like riot prediction software police could use to justify cracking down on protests. All of them are essentially ways to compile and analyze large amounts of data, and so far the risks mainly have to do with how humans choose to distribute and wield that power.

Hopefully humans will also be smart enough not to plug experimental machine learning programs into something very dangerous, like an army of laser-toting androids or a nuclear reactor. But if someone does and a disaster ensues, it would be the result of human negligence and stupidity, not because the robots had a philosophical revelation about how bad humans are.

At least not yet. Machine learning is nowhere close to true AI, just humanity’s initial fumbling with the technology. If anyone should be panicking about this news in 2017, it’s professional negotiators, who could find themselves out of a job.

View at the original source 

The User Experience: Why Data – Not Just Design – Hits the Sweet Spot 08-03

The successful user experience is about meeting a consumer’s needs on an individual level – a “segment of one” not “one-size-fits” all, many experts say. But what does that look like in practice? “What really differentiates companies is their personalization through data — which allows them to build unique experiences that lead to increased engagement and better outcomes, …” write Scott A. Snyder, president and CSO of Mobiquity and a senior fellow at Wharton, and Jason Hreha, founder of Dopamine, a behavior design firm, in this opinion piece.

Today, design has a seat at the table. With the success of products like the iPod and the iPhone, businesses have realized that a good user experience is key for the bottom line.

Yet even with this determined focus on design, most digital experiences fall short of user expectations. Of the 700 million websites that exist, 72% fail to consistently engage users or drive conversions. Of the 1.6 million apps available, just 200 account for 70% of all usage, and three out of four apps aren’t even used beyond the initial download.

So where did things go wrong? Or more importantly, how can we get them right? Surprisingly, the answer does not lie with design. It lies with data.

Netflix is an example of a company that pays attention to user experience. Early on Netflix chose not to charge late fees, like Blockbuster did, in order to help build its subscription DVD business. Netflix soon put Blockbuster out of business, but also came under threat from other online video streaming businesses like Sling and Roku. Fortunately, Netflix was able to use its viewing analytics to create personalized content recommendations, and even create its own shows geared toward viewer interests, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

For Netflix, the user experience was the price of entry, and the viewing data they gathered and analyzed became the strategic advantage of the business. Because of their approach, we don’t order special TV/Movie packages anymore. Instead, thanks to Netflix analytics, we have our viewing experience tailored to who we are. This is one example of a new breed of data-driven user experiences created by companies like Amazon, Pandora, Sephora, Nike, Progressive and Disney.

Good user experience design has become table stakes. If you don’t do it well, you can’t even get out of the gate in this hyper-competitive digital world. What really differentiates companies is their personalization through data — which allows them to build unique experiences that lead to increased engagement and better outcomes for the user and company. However, there is a fine line between “helpful” and “annoying” in the digital world, and the price of getting your data-driven personalization right or wrong may be the difference between a delighted customer and one who will never come back to your brand.

Good user experience design has become table stakes. If you don’t do it well, you can’t even get out of the gate in this hyper-competitive digital world.

How Can We Achieve Truly Personalized Experiences?

There are three reasons why digital solutions fail to engage users long term and drive positive outcomes: segmentation, relevance and rewards.

1. Segmentation: Behavioral

Are you someone who likes competition and rewards? Or are you someone motivated by helpful nudges from friends and family? Do you respond to text messages during work, or do you catch up on your personal messages at night? Do you travel a lot? Do you have a “wearable” (or are willing to use one)?

These are the types of questions we should be asking our users. We can either ask them directly, or infer answers from user interactions and behaviors. People are all different — but you wouldn’t know it by looking at most digital products. The majority of applications create a one-size-fits-all experience that fails to engage even a fifth of those who sign up. The good news is that we have the ability to collect individual behavioral data from users so that we can segment them more accurately, and present them with experiences that speak to their unique experiences and preferences.

2. Relevance: Getting Context Right

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In order to deliver relevant, impactful interactions at the right moment, we need to understand each user’s context. But context is much more than just time (when?) and location (where?). With richer data being collected from both users and third-party sources, context is now evolving to include situation (what am I doing?) and emotion (how am I feeling?). An expanded definition of context is shown in the figure above.

(Reference: Mobiquity and Wireless Innovation Council Research, 2014)

With this multifaceted model of context, we move closer to the ideal “segment of one” (a unique profile for each user at a given point in time). You would not want to send weight loss content to a customer who is maintaining a healthy weight, or give a shopping coupon to a stressed out traveler in an airport security line. Context-aware applications like Google Now and Tempo AI (acquired by Salesforce) leverage a user’s calendar as a source of context, so that they know when a user may be busy, in a meeting or enjoying downtime. This information is used by these applications to adjust their content and experience to fit the context-determined mindset of each individual user.

Context-aware applications like Google Now and Tempo AI (acquired by Salesforce) leverage a user’s calendar as a source of context, so that they know when a user may be busy, in a meeting or enjoying downtime.

Most users are only willing to share their data if they perceive that they will get real benefits in return. More than 60% of consumers want real-time promotions, yet 67% don’t trust retailers with their data (Opinion Lab Survey, 2015). We have the opportunity to do better.

3. Reward: Overcoming the Effort versus Benefit Challenge

In order to get, you have to give. Unfortunately, most applications ask for too much and offer too little. Twitter It’s common for apps to have a long-winded sign-up process that asks you every question under the sun. This is not a recipe for success.

Popular applications like Waze and Pandora are case studies in proper information gathering. They provide us with immediate benefits right after we download their apps. Waze improves our driving route in exchange for our location. Pandora gives us a personal DJ, tailored to our tastes, in exchange for rating the songs we’re listening to. In both these cases, our effort seems minimal in comparison to the benefits we get back. Contrast this with the majority of digital solutions that ask for a lot of data (like registration, profile, location, etc.) before delivering one ounce of benefit. We have to “earn the right” to collect the type of data we need to appropriately segment users. We have to win the “benefit versus effort” trade-off with our users by providing them with immediate, tangible benefits and using the data being collected to further personalize their experiences.

Evolving to a Data-driven UX Approach

Eighty-six percent of mobile marketers have reported success from personalization — including increased engagement, higher revenue, improved conversions, better user insights, and higher retention. However, only 1.5% of apps personalize their experiences (Mobile Marketing Automation Report, VB Insight, July 2015). In order to get to true personalization, and deliver greater effort than benefit, we need to make our user-experience (UX) design data-driven.

A traditional UX design process starts with user research followed by user flow creation, persona creation, storyboards/wireframes creation, and (finally) a graphical mock-up or prototype of the design. The desired result of this process is a single beautiful design that attempts to deliver the best possible experience to meet the needs of all the different user types.

By knowing something about each user’s behaviors, motivations and contexts, we have the opportunity to deliver a variation of the core experience that is best suited to each individual user by using robust analytics and an adaptive user interface.

But the reality is that all users are not the same — and they don’t all want to interact with your app in the same way. By knowing something about each user’s behaviors, motivations and contexts, we have the opportunity to deliver a variation of the core experience that is best suited to each individual user by using robust analytics and an adaptive user interface. In a data-driven UX approach like this, we start with the desired outcomes and behaviors we are trying to achieve with the target user base.

We then develop an initial behavioral segmentation model, and identify the optimal interaction strategies and user experience for each segment. And finally, we use analytics and machine learning to have our system adapt over time, so we can further optimize the design and underlying interaction models.

The figure below depicts the difference between a traditional and data-driven UX approach.

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Make it Real

Data-driven UX design is a fundamental shift in how companies approach product design and development. While the journey is not easy, the potential payoff is huge in terms of long-term engagement and positive outcomes for your customers. If you want to move to this new model, you need to consider the following:

1. Expand your definition of context beyond location and time. Situation and Emotion matter.

2. Deliver immediate benefits to users before asking for more of their data. There is a fine line between useful and creepy.

3. Segment your users based on digital behaviors, preferences, motivations and context to drive the most relevant interactions.

4. Set up a big data and analytics environment capable of capturing and acting on behavioral analytics data in real time.

5. Use analytics and machine learning to adapt the target interactions for each user-segment over time, based on user responses.

6. Recruit a new breed of user experience designers—those with analytics skills to support the design of adaptive user experiences.

7. Start with desired outcomes, then pilot and adjust quickly.

It’s no longer good enough to know your customers. It’s what you do with that knowledge that really matters. Your customers are willing to engage and share their data if they perceive a real benefit for them.

Are you ready to live up to your end of the bargain?

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Donald Trump's 'merit-based' immigration plan may benefit Indian professionals 08-03

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has announced his support for a legislation that would cut in half the number legal immigrants allowed into the US while moving to a "merit-based" system favouring English-speaking skilled workers for residency cards.

If passed by the Congress and signed into law, the legislation titled the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act could benefit highly-educated and technology professionals from countries such as India.

The RAISE Act would scrap the current lottery system to get into the US and instead institute a points-based system for earning a green card. Factors that would be taken into account include English language skills, education, high- paying job offers and age.

"The RAISE Act will reduce poverty, increase wages, and save taxpayers billions and billions of dollars. It will do this by changing the way the US issues Green Cards to nationals from other countries. Green Cards provide permanent residency, work authorisation, and fast track to citizenship," Trump said at a White House event to announce his support to the RAISE Act.

Standing along with two top authors of the bill -- Senators Tom Cotton and David Perdue Trump said the RAISE Act ends chain migration, and replaces the low-skilled system with a new points-based system for receiving a Green Card.

This competitive application process will favour applicants who can speak English, financially support themselves and their families, and demonstrate skills that will contribute to our economy, he said, adding that the RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare, and protects US workers from being displaced.

Trump said this legislation will not only restore America's competitive edge in the 21st century, but it will restore the sacred bonds of trust between America and its citizens.

"This legislation demonstrates our compassion for struggling American families who deserve an immigration system that puts their needs first and that puts America first," he said.

The RAISE Act will be re-orienting Green Card system towards people who can speak English, who have high degrees of educational attainment, who have a job offer that pays more, and a typical job in their local economy, who are going to create a new business, and who are outstanding in their field around the world, Senator Cotton said.

Senator Perdue said the current system does not work. "It keeps America from being competitive, and it does not meet the needs of the economy today," he said.

"Today we bring in 1.1 million legal immigrants a year. Over 50 per cent of our households of legal immigrants today participate in our social welfare system. Right now, only one 1 out of 15 immigrants who come into our country come in with skills that are employable. We've got to change that," he said.

"We can all agree that the goals of our nation's immigration system should be to protect the interests of working Americans, including immigrants, and to welcome talented individuals who come here legally and want to work and make a better life for themselves. Our current system makes it virtually impossible for them to do that," said Senator Perdue.

According to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the higher entry standards established in this proposal will allow authorities to do a more thorough job reviewing applicants for entry, therefore protecting the security of the US homeland.

The additional time spent on vetting each application as a result of this legislation will also ensure that each application serves the national interest, he observed.

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