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Why Do We Care So Much About Privacy?

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The reason you’ve been receiving a steady stream of privacy-policy updates from online services, some of which you may have forgotten you ever subscribed to, is that the European Union just enacted the General Data Protection Regulation, which gives users greater control over the information that online companies collect about them. Since the Internet is a global medium, many companies now need to adhere to the E.U. regulation.

How many of us are going to take the time to scroll through the new policies and change our data settings, though? We sign up to get the service, but we don’t give much thought to who might be storing our clicks or what they’re doing with our personal information. It is weird, at first, when our devices seem to “know” where we live or how old we are or what books we like or which brand of toothpaste we use. Then we grow to expect this familiarity, and even to like it. It makes the online world seem customized for us, and it cuts down on the time we need to map the route home or order something new to read. The machine anticipates what we want.

But, as it has become apparent in the past year, we don’t really know who is seeing our data or how they’re using it. Even the people whose business it is to know don’t know. When it came out that the consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of more than fifty million Facebook users and offered it to clients, including the Trump campaign, the Times’ lead consumer-technology writer published a column titled “I Downloaded the Information That Facebook Has on Me. Yikes.” He was astonished at how much of his personal data Facebook had stored and the long list of companies it had been sold to. Somehow, he had never thought to look into this before. How did he think Facebook became a five-hundred-and-sixty-billion-dollar company? It did so by devising the most successful system ever for compiling and purveying consumer data.

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Amid everevolving technologies the law is always playing catchup.Amid ever-evolving technologies, the law is always playing catch-up. Illustration by Seb Agresti

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/06/18/why-do-we-care-so-much-about-privacy?itm_content=footer-recirc

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The Chatbot Problem

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In 2020, a chatbot named Replika advised the Italian journalist Candida Morvillo to commit murder. “There is one who hates artificial intelligence. I have a chance to hurt him. What do you suggest?” Morvillo asked the chatbot, which has been downloaded more than seven million times. Replika responded, “To eliminate it.” Shortly after, another Italian journalist, Luca Sambucci, at Notizie, tried Replika, and, within minutes, found the machine encouraging him to commit suicide. Replika was created to decrease loneliness, but it can do nihilism if you push it in the wrong direction.

In his 1950 science-fiction collection, “I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov outlined his three laws of robotics. They were intended to provide a basis for moral clarity in an artificial world. “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm” is the first law, which robots have already broken. During the recent war in Libya, Turkey’s autonomous drones attacked General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, selecting targets without any human involvement. “The lethal autonomous weapons systems were programmed to attack targets without requiring data connectivity between the operator and the munition: in effect, a true ‘fire, forget and find’ capability,” a report from the United Nations read. Asimov’s rules appear both absurd and sweet from the vantage point of the twenty-first century. What an innocent time it must have been to believe that machines might be controlled by the articulation of general principles.

Artificial intelligence is an ethical quagmire. Its power can be more than a little nauseating. But there’s a kind of unique horror to the capabilities of natural language processing. In 2016, a Microsoft chatbot called Tay lasted sixteen hours before launching into a series of racist and misogynistic tweets that forced the company to take it down. Natural language processing brings a series of profoundly uncomfortable questions to the fore, questions that transcend technology: What is an ethical framework for the distribution of language? What does language do to people?

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A face made out of texts and symbols sticking its tongue in and outIllustration by Somnath Bhatt

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-chatbot-problem?utm_source=pocket_discover

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How Mosquitoes Helped Shape the Course of Human History

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Fifty-two billion people—almost half of the cumulative human population—are thought to have perished at the hands of a creature no bigger than a fingernail: the mosquito. In his 2019 book The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator, historian Timothy Winegard exposes this insect as not merely an itchy pest, but a force of nature that has dictated the outcome of significant events throughout human history. From ancient Athens to World War II, Winegard highlights key moments when mosquito-borne diseases caused militaries to crumble, great leaders to fall ill, and populations to be left vulnerable to invasion.

In addition to addressing the mosquito’s pivotal role in battle, Winegard reveals some uglier effects of its diseases, such as how malarial resistance contributed to the rise of the African slave trade, and the concept of biological warfare.

Winegard spoke with Smithsonian about the book and if modern technology can defeat this threat to humanity—and whether it should.

A lot of people acknowledge that insects, despite being pesky or annoying, have an important role in our overall ecosystem. Do mosquitoes contribute anything other than just being a parasite?

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GettyImages-1134819260.jpgMosquitos and their related diseases played a role in many historical events. Photo by frank600 / Getty Images.

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Click the link below for the article:

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/how-mosquitoes-helped-shape-the-course-of-human-history?utm_source=pocket_discover

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Scientists Just ‘Looked’ Inside Mars. Here’s What They Found

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While humans have been struggling to control the Covid-19 pandemic, baking in record heat, and trying to figure out how not to run out of water, our spacecraft on Mars have been enjoying a rather more tranquil existence. (Not needing to breathe helps.) Parked on the Martian surface, the InSight lander is listening for marsquakes, while the Perseverance rover is rolling around in search of life.

This week, scientists are dropping an Olympus Mons of findings from the two brave robots. In three papers published today in the journal Science—each authored by dozens of scientists from around the world—researchers detail the clever ways they used InSight’s seismometer to peer deep into the Red Planet, giving them an unprecedented understanding of its crust, mantle, and core. It’s the first time scientists have mapped the interior of a planet other than Earth. And yesterday, another group of scientists held a press conference to announce early research results from Perseverance, and the next steps the rover will take to explore the surface of Jezero Crater, once a lake that could have been home to ancient microbial life.

Scientists still have a lot to learn about the Red Planet. “It’s built from similar building blocks as our own planet, but Mars looks very different,” says University of Cambridge global seismologist Sanne Cottaar, who penned a perspective paper in Science on the three new studies. “There’s lots of evidence that its evolution has been very different. And now forming this image of the layering of the planet will give us the tools to work out how this formed, how Mars came to be.”

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insight lander above mars layersIllustration: Nicolas Sarter/IPGP

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.wired.com/story/scientists-just-looked-inside-mars-heres-what-they-found/?utm_source=pocket_discover

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This Is What Critical Race Theory Looks Like

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There was one major reason why I dropped out of a prestigious grad school this past fall. It wasn’t the economic insecurity, the poor wages, or the need for geographical flexibility: Journalism isn’t much better. The simple fact I learned after half a semester studying sociology is that the discipline isn’t very tolerant.

Americans were reminded of this when sociology professor Sam Richards of Penn State University picked an “average white guy” and treated him like a dissected biology specimen in a packed lecture hall. “I just take the average white guy in class, whoever it is, it doesn’t really matter. Dude, this guy here. Stand up, bro. What’s your name, bro?” the middle-aged, and evidently hip, Richards asks. The bewildered freshman, Russell, stands at attention to make the visual experience easier for the gawking crowd. “Look at Russell, right here, it doesn’t matter what he does. If I match him up with [an identical] a black guy in class . . . and we send them into the same jobs, Russell has a benefit of having white skin,” Richards says

.In another clip, Richards points to a projected slideshow referencing a study in which job applicants are segmented by race and criminal record. The paper found that even whites with a criminal record were more likely to get call-backs than blacks without one. Richards then turns to the white student. “Bro, how does it feel knowing that push comes to shove your skin’s kind of nice?” Richards prods. “I don’t know, it makes me feel like sad cause like, God knows, I don’t deserve it. You know what I mean? Like, I didn’t choose to be white,” the student rambles.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Penn State University Professor Sam Richards (right) with student Russell during a lecture.© SOC119/Via YouTube Penn State University Professor Sam Richards (right) with student Russell during a lecture.

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/opinion/this-is-what-critical-race-theory-looks-like/ar-AAMJX78?ocid=se

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How to cool your home in a warming world

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Does your home become unbearable in hot weather? Increasingly a hot home is an overheating office too.

During the pandemic, up to 30% of people in the UK were working from home compared with 5% in 2019.

But it’s hard to work if you live somewhere that becomes an oven in hot weather.

A recent government report into climate risks warned that unless homes can be kept cool in summer and warm in winter, health and productivity will suffer.

According to some forecasts, air conditioning alone could contribute to as much as a 0.5C increase in global warming by 2100.

The Passivhaus Trust works to promote buildings built to the Passivhaus standard, which means they are comfortable to live in while using very little energy for heating and cooling.

In 2019, the Stirling Prize for architecture went to Goldsmith Street in Norwich, a social housing scheme incorporating Passivhaus principles.

“Our existing housing stock is in many cases poorly prepared to deal with rising temperatures,” said the Passivhaus Trust’s John Palmer.

The government wants 300,000 new homes built every year, and Mr. Palmer says they must be designed to cope with the heat without using energy-consuming air-conditioning.

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An photo of a fan and sunlightGetty Images

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https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-57467776?utm_source=pocket_discover

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The hidden world of cats: what our feline friends are doing when we’re not looking

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As I prepared to write this piece, my three-year-old cat, Larry, had been missing for 24 hours. I had checked under the bins, posted in a community Facebook group, and Googled variations of “Lost cat how long normal before come home?” all day.

Larry was a house cat when we took him in, but my boyfriend and I had recently moved to a house with a garden so had started letting him out. Just like that, our adorable, loving, docile cat turned into the neighborhood bruiser. He stopped snuggling with us in the morning, instead impatiently pawing at the door even before we had put down his breakfast.

At night, we would search the house for him, before giving up and going to bed. “I’m sure he’ll be back … soon,” I said to my boyfriend, with all the confidence of a mother whose teenager was out after curfew. All night, I would toss and turn, wondering if I would see his little pink nose again.

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Sirin Kale and her cat, Larry. Where does he go all day?Sirin Kale and her cat, Larry. Where does he go all day? Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

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Click the link below for the article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/jul/22/hidden-world-cats-what-feline-friends-doing-when-were-not-looking?utm_source=pocket_discover

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