Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Read an Article about Group Problem Solving, Improved by Distance

From the BBC, we learn of the latest psychological literature suggesting that less communication might actually be better than constant inputs. Collaboration in an "always on" mode may in fact reduce ‘collective intelligence’ (a team’s joint problem-solving ability). Instead of always staying in touch with colleagues with continual chats on Slack, for example, the study suggests a better model would be to concentrate group communication to short, intermittent bursts – a single daily video call, for example – to boost team problem solving and creativity.

Besides helping us to make better use of our time during the current crisis, these findings could help to shape the ways that we go about team decision making in the future. Even if we are in the office, we might all benefit from having a bit more me time and a bit less team time.

Read more and download a PDF of the article.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Cold Warrior Satellites Like Corona Help Track Species Decline

The United States launched early spy satellites in response to the Soviet Union Sputnik (first artificial satellite, 1957) and other space efforts. The espionage program, titled Corona, was aimed at locating Soviet missile sites, but its orbital photography captured something unintended: snapshots of animals and their habitats frozen in time. Now, by comparing these images with modern data, scientists have found a way to track the decline of biodiversity in regions that lack historic records.

The researchers tested the approach on bobak marmot (Marmota bobak) populations in the grassland region of northern Kazakhstan. There, Soviets converted millions of hectares of natural habitat into cropland in the 1960s. The scientists searched the satellites' black and white film images on a U.S. Geological Survey database for signs of the squirrel-like animal's burrows.

They identified more than 5,000 historic marmot homes and compared them with contemporary digital images of the region, mapping more than 12,000 marmot burrows in all. About eight generations of marmots occupied the same burrows in the study area over more than 50 years, even when their habitats underwent major changes, the team reports in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Overall, the researchers estimate the number of marmot burrows dropped by 14% since the '60s. But the number of burrows in some of the oldest fields -- those persistently disturbed by humans plowing grassland to plant wheat -- plunged by much more -- about 60%.
Read more over at Slashdot...

Friday, May 22, 2020

People Would Be More Accepting of Jonny-Cab Once They Try Them Out

Autonomous vehicles seem to have s public perception problem, according to new survey data collected by an industry group. Partners for Automated Vehicle Education surveyed 1,200 Americans earlier this year and found that 48 percent of Americans say they would "never get in a taxi or ride-share vehicle that was being driven autonomously." And slightly more Americans -- 20 percent versus 18 percent -- think autonomous vehicles will never be safe compared to those who say they'd put their names down on a waiting list to get a ride in an autonomous vehicle.

According to the survey data, getting a ride in a robotaxi might change some of those minds. Three in five said that they'd have more trust in autonomous vehicles if they had a better understanding of how those vehicles worked, and 58 percent said that firsthand experience -- i.e. going for a ride in a self-driving car -- would make them trust the technology more.
"Of the 1,200 survey respondents, 678 reported owning an [advanced driver assistance system] ADAS-equipped vehicle, and three-quarters of them said they 'will feel safer on the road when I know that most other vehicles have enhanced safety features,' with the same number saying they are eager to see what new safety features will be on their next vehicle," the report adds.

As describer at Slashdot, "Interestingly, drivers who own cars with forward collision warning (FCW), blind spot monitoring (BSM), lane departure warning (LDW), and automatic emergency braking (AEB) were also more likely to believe that safe autonomous vehicles would be available within the next 10 years compared to those without those features."

Monday, May 18, 2020

Old Dogs Can Learn... to love Open Source

In 2001, then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer described Linux as "a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches."

This week at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, Microsoft's current president Brad Smith admitted that--

"Microsoft was on the wrong side of history when open-source exploded at the beginning of the century." "And I can say that about me personally. The good news is that, if life is long enough, you can learn...that you need to change.

"Today, Microsoft is the single largest contributor to open-source projects in the world when it comes to businesses. When we look at GitHub, we see it as the home for open-source development, and we see our responsibility as its steward to make it a secure, productive home for [developers]."

So there you have it... acknowledgement of what the world-at-large has known for quite some time. By its very nature, open source enables anyone to look for and fix security flaws. And since it is peer-reviewed, software is opened up to a larger cadre of inspectors who can quickly detect issues. In fact, many open source solutions are much more secure than proprietary commercial-off-the-shelf products.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Internet Co-Founder on the Value of... the Internet During this Pandemic

One of the creators of the internet, Vint Cerf, suggests that privacy legislation might hinder the development of a vaccination for the COVID-19 coronavirus. He does highlight that the global network has more than proven its worth by facilitating social interactions and economic activity that would otherwise would be conducted face-to-face. With many places in lock-down, these interactions may not have been conducted at all.
Score one for the Interweb!

The novel SARS-COV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19 disease is teaching us a great many lessons about infrastructure writ large. We are discovering weaknesses in socio-economic safety nets, in our healthcare systems, public transportation system, our education systems and many others.

To the degree that working and living can be done in some remote way, the Internet has become an important component of COVID-19 response. It permits remote interaction with customers and even patients. It allows people to order goods and services online for delivery to doorsteps. It provides researchers with access to global sources of information and to computing power in unprecedented quantities. The openness, interoperability and distributed nature of the Internet has contributed to its utility. Its scalability in many dimensions has allowed it to expand to accommodate new demands. Remarkably, the capacity to support streaming video is now also supporting real-time videoconferencing as a substitute for in-person meetings.

The grey-beard of the internet age values privacy as much as anyone, but observers, "Variations of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are propagating around the world with good intent although implementation has shown some unintended consequences, not least of which may be the ability to share health information that would assist in finding a vaccine against SARS-COV-2." Europe's GDPR does require researchers to develop the same data management plans as those of commercial entities -- sometimes a heavy lift. This article in the European Journal Of Human Genetics (March 2020) elucidates on how GDPR means secondary researchers can’t identify individuals and could therefore make it harder to translate research into action.

The Internet, World-Wide-Web, and mobile phones are a powerful combination for some tracking and tracing system designs. Vint Cerf doesn't describe the current remote education tool as being complete: "...the current crisis has shown that online education is powerful but needs further evolution."

“More generally, we must imagine other potential global catastrophes and put in place plans to mitigate,” he says as the piece winds up. “The time to agree on best practices for emergency response is before the emergency, not during.”

“We must not allow this pandemic or a future one to become our society’s Titanic.”

Read the full article here...