A hard look at the wastefulness of "proof of work," the idea at the core of the blockchain

David Gerard is a technically minded, sharp-witted, scathing critic of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies; his criticism is long, comprehensive and multipartite, but of particular interest is is critique of "proof of work" (an idea that is central to the blockchain, but which many cryptographers are skeptical of). Read the rest

A dozen googlers quit over Google's military drone contract

Google's "Project Maven" is supplying machine-learning tools to the Pentagon to support drone strikes; the project has been hugely divisive within Google, with employees pointing out that the company is wildly profitable and doesn't need to compromise on its ethics to keep its doors open; that the drone program is a system of extrajudicial killing far from the battlefield; and that the firm's long-term health depends on its ability to win and retain the trust of users around the world, which will be harder if Google becomes a de facto wing of the US military. Read the rest

Enhance enhance: Using machine learning to recover lost detail from upscaled photos

A team of researchers from Twitter have published a paper detailing a machine learning technique that uses a generative adversarial network to make shrewd guesses about how to up-res small images by up to 400%, into crisp, large images, with eye-popping results. Read the rest

See in the Dark: a machine learning technique for producing astoundingly sharp photos in very low light

A group of scientists from Intel and the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign have published a paper called Learning to See in the Dark detailing a powerful machine-learning based image processing technique that allows regular cameras to take super-sharp pictures in very low light, without long exposures or the kinds of graininess associated with low-light photography. Read the rest

Welsh police deployed facial recognition tech with a 92% false positive rate, but they're sure it's fine

The South Wales Police deployed a facial recognition technology at the June 2017 Champions League soccer final in Cardiff, and 92% of the people identified by the system as matches for suspiciousness were false positives. Read the rest

Should I use an algorithm here? EFF's 5-point checklist

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Jamie Williams and Lena Gunn have drawn up an annotated five-point list of questions to ask yourself before using a machine-learning algorithm to make predictions and guide outcomes. Read the rest

Syllabus for a course on Data Science Ethics

The University of Utah's Suresh Venkatasubramanian and Katie Shelef are teaching a course in "Ethics in Data Science" and they've published a comprehensive syllabus for it; it's a fantastic set of readings for anyone interested in understanding and developing ethical frameworks for computer science generally, and data science in particular. Read the rest

Prof says he'll grade students on a curve, so they organize a boycott of the exams and all get As

Johns Hopkins Computer Science prof Professor Peter Fröhlich grades his students on a curve: the highest score on the final gets an A and everyone else is graded accordingly. Read the rest

Teaching computers to pick a conversation out of a noisy room

Human beings have a weird, poorly-understood ability to pick a single conversation out of a noisy room, it's called the "cocktail party effect" and while its exact mechanism isn't totally understood, researchers do know that vision plays a role in it, and that being able to see the speaker helps you pick their words out of a crowd. Read the rest

Stealing data from airgapped computers by using power fluctuations as a covert channel

Ben Gurion university's Mordechai Guri is a master exfiltrator, a computer scientist who's devised a bewildering array of innovative techniques for getting data off of "airgapped" computers that have been fully disconnected from any kind of network. Read the rest

You can unscramble the hashes of humanity's 5 billion email addresses in ten milliseconds for $0.0069

Marketing companies frequently "anonymize" their dossiers on internet users using hashes of their email addresses -- rather than the email addresses themselves -- as identifiers in databases that are stored indefinitely, traded, sold, and leaked. Read the rest

UC Berkeley offers its Foundations of Data Science course for free online

Berkeley's "Foundations of Data Science" boasts the fastest-growing enrollment of any course in UC Berkeley history, and now it's free on the university's Edx distance-education platform. Read the rest

Machine learning projects for kids

Dale Lane's Machine Learning for Kids project uses extensions to the popular Scratch programming environment to teach the basics of machine learning to children. Read the rest

Law professors and computer scientists mull whether America's overbroad "hacking" laws ban tricking robots

Robot law pioneer Ryan Calo (previously) teamed up with U Washington computer science and law-school colleagues to write Is Tricking a Robot Hacking? -- a University of Washington School of Law Research Paper. Read the rest

Attacks that unmask anonymous blockchain transactions can be used against everyone who ever relied on the defective technique

In An Empirical Analysis of Traceability in the Monero Blockchain, a group of eminent computer scientists analyze a longstanding privacy defect in the Monero cryptocurrency, and reveal a new, subtle flaw, both of which can be used to potentially reveal the details of transactions and identify their parties. Read the rest

Invisible, targeted infrared light can fool facial recognition software into thinking anyone is anyone else

A group of Chinese computer scientists from academia and industry have published a paper documenting a tool for fooling facial recognition software by shining hat-brim-mounted infrared LEDs on the user's face, projecting CCTV-visible, human-eye-invisible shapes designed to fool the face recognition software. Read the rest

A proposal to stop 3D printers from making guns is a perfect parable of everything wrong with information security

Many people worry that 3D printers will usher in an epidemic of untraceable "ghost guns," particularly guns that might evade some notional future gun control regime that emerges out of the current movement to put sensible, minimal curbs on guns, particularly anti-personnel guns. Read the rest

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