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Tech/Tech Companies/Artificial Intelligence

An Incredible Artificial Intelligence Fund is Launched

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“The future is now.” This is a common refrain made in science-fiction movies. The fantasy land of the future is becoming a reality and doing so now. Just look at the new $27 million research fund being put together by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. The fund has an almost “cyberpunk” feel to it. The goal of the fund is to support research into artificial intelligence in the public interest. This does sound like the plot of a science-fiction movie. A noble goal to create an artificial intelligence system ends with terrifying results. Think of Skynet from The Terminator or HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.


Perhaps such imagery is more than a little bit melodramatic. Artificial intelligence systems are not going to be “self-aware” any time soon. Early versions of artificial intelligence systems simply will integrate automation to streamline the way technology operates. With this particular fund, the goal is to promote “ethically designed AI systems” to counter problems such as the spread of fake news online. The amount of money invested in the fund is significant. Whether or not the investment bears fruit remains to be seen.


Something does have to be pointed out here. Artificial intelligence is not emotional. Human beings are guided by emotion. A lot of people like to believe “fake news” because the news may be in line with their opinions. The news could also connect with a person on an emotional level. In short, certain segments of the popular are going to believe what they read because the news fits their picture of the world.


No artificial intelligence system is likely to override how these people think and believe.


Tech/Tech Companies

Tech Employees Threaten To Quit Their Jobs

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Everyone knew the day was going was going to come, but no one knew when. Well, the time has come. Employees for some of the biggest internet and tech companies have come out against President elect Trump’s position of collecting a database of Muslim Americans. They have threatened to resign en masse if told that this would be their new job.


While this is just starting to play out, we need to be mindful of two facts: One, Donald Trump’s promise to make this database was a campaign promise from 1 or 2 months ago. And two, this new development is a very recent one. It is important to remember that campaign talk is designed to get votes. Once elected, an official may take an entirely different view on things. He will be surrounded by advisers and experts who may tell him that a database of people for this reason is not a good idea. They may tell him that it is. The point being, people should not be basing current actions on past words. Especially words spoken by a candidate who is trying to get elected into a public office.


Computer Tech Employees Quitting?


Another thing to keep in mind is that people are so used to reacting to what a politician says, their typical reaction to anything that Trump says will probably be misplaced. Trump is a businessman, and whether he forsakes the whole of his business life to be president will not change that. His mindset is that of a businessman, so his decisions will stem from that. When he says something like collecting a database on Muslim Americans, people should not react to that as a political move. They need to react to that as a business move, because chances are very good that’s what it is.


So on a business level, how would this database effect America? Answer that question first and try to do it through the eyes of a businessman. Then, if you still feel that the move is still Hitler-like in quality and substance, you can protest intelligently and your voice will most likely be taken seriously. As it stands now though, the protests of the tech employees, while noble in thought, comes across as a 2 month old knee-jerk reaction to something that was said in order to get votes.


Technology/Tech/Tech Companies/Yahoo

Yahoo Stock Slumps After Hacking Comes to Light

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Yahoo this week announced a hack of their email accounts by an unknown source which resulted in over a billion email accounts being exposed. This hack comes after and in addition to a previously announced e-mail hack which resulted in five hundred million email accounts being exposed. Now, some market observers are predicting that this latest hack will have a billion dollar impact on Yahoo.


The stock market has already reacted dropping $1.4 billion on the news of the hack in which the accounts were exposed. Today alone Yahoo’s stock dropped 6% making it the largest looser in the stock market today.


Yahoo, for some time now, has been considered to be negligent with their security measures protecting their user’s accounts. CEO Marissa Meyers who took over the company focused her attention on other areas of Yahoo’s business since she took over the company and there are reports that when this attack first came to light in 2013 the company brushed it under the rug and moved on with their business. This led to a greater and wider data breech than might have otherwise occurred.


Yahoo is a conglomerate of three separate businesses. One is a partial ownership interest in Alibaba, a Chinese retail company and another is a partial ownership interest in Yahoo Japan, two companies that have experienced a significant amount of success over the years. The remaining business includes Yahoo’s e-mail services and a host of other web sites and services that are currently in the process of being acquired by Verizon for $4.8 billion.


Verizon indicated after the earlier hacking account that full disclosure of the hack was not made public and the company was considering renegotiating the acquisition price. The news of this second, and larger hack, is further resulting in anticipation that the acquisition price will be renegotiated downward. Based on the decrease in the value of Yahoo stock many shareholders are betting that the decrease in the stock price will be $1 billion in value.


Verizon has not commented on the second disclosure of the hack other than indicating that they will continue to evaluate the investigation into the hack. One impact that can lead to Verizon walking away is the potential for significant litigation as a result of these two large hacking events.


Technology/Tech/Tech Companies

Intelligent Machines are Pushing the Workforce Forward

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The idea of intelligent machines is nothing new. It’s essentially something that we’ve all heard about for years, but the term intelligent machines was rarely used publicly until recently. This is especially true for millennials who grew up watching films that depicted how robots would eventually take over the world. Fortunately, we’ve evolved past the idea of seeing robots as something to fear. More and more businesses are discovering the advantage of using intelligent machines to do more than just get the job done. As automated technology systems have become more advanced so have the machines we’ve created. This shift definitely is apparent in the renaming of robots to intelligent machines. Advancing technologies have been implemented that allows these machines to recognize their own mistakes and then the intelligent machine can correct their own error. Elon Musk has even recently said that he believes that intelligent machines will begin taking over many jobs in the future which will ultimately lead to a universal wage. The topic of universal income aside, his view on the topic of jobs becoming more automated is not as outlandish as it may sound to some. This is especially true for job roles that are mostly manual, but given how advanced intelligent machines have become, it’ll be no surprise to see intelligent machines take over roles that require a high skill set. In a recent article it is made clear that it won’t be much longer before we live in a world where intelligent machines replace a large portion of the workforce. Although it may seem like something that would put people out of work, that’s not exactly true. Implementing intelligent machines to do tasks in a more cost efficient manner can create more profitability in businesses which in turn can lead to new job creation. Intelligent machines are being developed to disrupt industries, which will without a doubt affect those in the workforce today, but in a positive way. In the same way that there have been roles and positions completely replaced with automated processes, this will happen again. New industries, new positions, and new skills were born out of the innovation that came before us, and it’s exciting to see the change unfold right before our eyes.


Technology/Tech Companies/Verizon

Verizon’s Tenuous Bid on Yahoo Unravels

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Incidents do come with consequences and, at times, those consequences are felt by parties that did nothing wrong. Verizon was very much interested in purchasing Yahoo, but plans are changing rapidly due to revelations that Yahoo suffered a massive user account hack in 2013. The number of accounts hacked was shocking. More than one billion accounts were compromised via the epic hack. No shock here that Verizon is having second thoughts about procuring Yahoo since all the assets will come with all sorts of problems.


Verizon would want to take control of Yahoo for one single reason: to earn profits. People have to use Yahoo in order for revenue to be generated in the company’s direction. Saying far fewer people are going to be interested in using Yahoo for emailing and other activities in light of the hack wouldn’t be a stretch. Scandals that involve invasions of privacy and the specter of identity theft won’t exactly build enthusiasm among the public.


The procurement of Yahoo by Verizon could have been very promising. Yahoo has fallen far, far behind Google as a search engine and only accounts for a small amount of search traffic. The news and email components to Yahoo are popular and Yahoo News definitely draws in the interest of people all over the globe. Something has always been missing from Yahoo’s operations. This has undermined the supreme growth potential of the company. If Yahoo came under the ownership of a corporate giant such as Verizon, a great many things could have changed. Different management at the top combined with tremendous cash reserves may yield major changes and results.


Verizon has already made a bid to purchase Yahoo. The amount is nearly $5 billion. At present, Verizon is trying to walk everything back. In other words, Verizon doesn’t want to buy the company for the original bid since the value of Yahoo has surely dropped.


Verizon probably would be willing to go forward with the purchase if the bid could be revised to something much lower. Verizon cannot be blamed for not wanting to stick with the original bid figure since it was made without knowing about the issue of the 2013 hack. Verizon probably wouldn’t have even put a bid in considering all the trouble Yahoo’s brand now finds itself.


Tech Companies/Cybersecurity

Edward Snowden Calling For Tech Companies To Ensure Privacy

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NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden had an interview with StartPage where he spoke about the outcome of the 2016 election and Donald Trump becoming president. He also addressed concerns with privacy in the new administration. Snowden said we should not put too much trust in elected officials.


“We’re never farther than an election away from a change in leader, from a change in policy, a change in the way the powers we have constructed into a system are used. So, what we need to think about now is not how do we defend against a president Donald Trump, but how do we protect the rights of everyone, everywhere, without regard to jurisdictions, without regard to borders?” Snowden said.

Snowden’s tone changed to concern when discussing technology companies like Google and Facebook, who record your data forever. “Everything you type into that Google prompt is being saved forever,” said Snowden.


Snowden called on the industry leaders to end data collecting prior to Donald Trump’s swearing in. Snowden and other anti-surveillance supporters believe Donald Trump will increase law enforcement and surveillance. Snowden also said he was not worried about Russian President Vladimir Putin turning him over to the United States as a political favor to Donald Trump. Putin has labeled Snowden as a human rights defender and Russia does not extradite human rights defenders.


During his talk, Snowden advocated for more encryption and other cybersecurity measures to become key as the internet continues to grow. He also called upon people to become more politically active when it comes to privacy issues. Snowden barely got into talking about the 2016 election results but did manage to attack Donald Trump.

During Snowden’s chat, he continued to deny working with any foreign government or intelligence agency. Snowden shared his concern about a Donald Trump presidency but said he was optimistic that the U.S. will survive, and that we only have to worry about today and not what happens tomorrow or the next day. Snowden’s conversation lasted almost an hour.



Technology/Tech Companies/International Space Station (ISS)

Outer Space Is Now The Frontier Of the Private Sector

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Access to outer space has now been achieved by many first-world countries, with many commercial interests now also interested in collaborating with NASA in private ventures. NASA has announced that they are in complete agreement. In fact, they are developing ways for all private companies to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). This is part of NASA’s plan to give the world of low-Earth orbits to commercial operations in order to leave NASA free to plan and execute missions to Mars.


The overall plan is to allow commercial space companies, such as Elon Musk’s Boeing and SpaceX, to build on and extend the ISS with their own private modules. They will attach them to the outside of the existing modules. This was recently announced by Charles Bolden, NASA’s Administrator, as part of the Agency’s newly announced initiative to grow the private access by commercial interests to space. There are a very long list of products that can benefit from space travel, as well as some that can only be created in the zero-gravity environment of space.


The long range goal is for each company to build their own private space stations. Bolden posted his hopes in a post on the blog for the White House: “A vibrant user community will be key to ensuring the economic viability of future space stations.”


This follows queries of private companies by NASA as to how they would utilize a single ISS docking port. Many private companies have expressed a strong desire to be allowed to attach their own modules for benefit of commercial interests. Former NASA Administrators have mentioned interest in better collaboration with private sector businesses that also need access to outer space. This new initiative is the culmination of many previous steps, albeit baby steps, that are now leading to a planet-wide industry in space. There are also some early plans by some companies for space tourism, which will also undoubtedly benefit from this new level of openness by NASA.


Find out more in this Verge article.

Tech Companies/Samsung/Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Does A Massive Recalls of Its Galaxy Note 7

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In what could be the biggest recall by an electronic firm in history, Samsung announced on Tuesday that it would be retrieving its Galaxy Note 7 phones from the global market. This decision came amidst several reports of battery explosions in this latest model of the series. The company will also halt the production of new Galaxy Note 7 phones.

Earlier on, US regulator had issued a statement announcing a recall of more than one million devices in the country because they risked catching fire due to faulty batteries. Many people had reported about the fault to Samsung. The company had taken the initiative of replacing the faulty ones with better ones. However, people still reported problems with the replacements. Some major airlines urged travelers to switch off their Samsung phones or put them away in bags while on the flight. Others went ahead and banned the phones on their flights. Following the news, the South Korean electronics manufacturer’s market value plummeted by $18 billion.

The recall comes barely three weeks after the phone was launched by the giant electronics manufacturer. The problems started when pictures of burned phones started circulating on the internet immediately they were released to the market. Samsung has said that they will be carrying out voluntary replacing of the phones in all their stores worldwide. The company also posted that they are working tirelessly with their partners to ensure the phones go back to the shelves soon.

The current fiasco could mean a potential financial disaster for the company. It could cost it billions of dollars in the coming week if the problem continues. According to statistics, this is one of the major recalls in the current electronic industry.

Most recalls are managed by government agencies such as NHTSA, FDA and EPA. One of the largest recalls ever made in the United States by these agencies involved 143 million pounds of beef produced by Hallmark Meat in 2008. There are other cases of electronic recalls, but the recent recall of Samsung devices is the largest in the electronic industry.

Tech Companies/Data Security Breach

Yahoo Data Breach May Trigger User Loss

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A massive data breach at Yahoo in 2014 is threatening to unleash damage on the brand’s reputation, customer loyalty, as well as the Value that Verizon will receive from their acquisition of Yahoo last month. While this acquisition has not been finalized it is expected to be ratified by Verizon and Yahoo shareholders and be completed late in 2016. Verizon paid about $4.8 billion for Yahoo’s U.S. operations which were affected by the data breach.

This data breach was news as the full extent of the attack became fully known on Thursday through a statement by the company. Critics of Yahoo indicated that the impact of the data breach would have been more significant had Yahoo retained its customer base more completely. Over the past two years Yahoo has seen a reduction in its email account usage by about thirty percent, losing market share to Google and Microsoft. Google had a nine percent increase per year during this one frame and is now three times the size of Yahoo when measured by active email accounts.

The data breach at Yahoo impacted over 500 million Yahoo accounts and exposed customer name, birthday, e-mail address, address, and security question data. Encrypted passwords were not impacted by the data breach. It is recommended that users who are impacted by this data breach change their passwords and answers t security question responses and choose to opt into the two-part log-in process which involve a password being sent to your cell phone every time you try to log into your email account.

It is likely that this data breach stems from an infiltration from Russia as files including a database of the leaked information began being sold in Russia last year. The database was for sale for less than $2,000 and customers who use similar passwords for other accounts may be particularly at risk.

The fact that it has taken so long for Yahoo to both discover and disclose the attack is unusual, though many industry experts indicated that many data breaches don’t leave much of a residue of the infiltration. Still the size and scope of the data breach sheds light on poor security controls by Yahoo and may trigger a future exodus of users in the coming years to their more secure rivals.

Technology/Tech Companies

Bridging the Gap Between Silicon Valley and China

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Silicon Valley’s hopes of getting a share in the Chinese market was crushed to dust when Uber sold its operations in the country to its closest rival Didi Chuxing. The region’s tech companies have slowly lost the battle for the country’s 700 million population characterized by high purchasing power and love for technology. Amazon, eBay, Google, Facebook and Twitter are already sidelined and replaced by local alternative versions.

In equal measure, Chinese tech companies are still finding it hard to penetrate the global market. The country’s tech giants such as Alibaba and Baidu have staged futile attempts to gain traction of the globe’s rich market share. Following these circumstances, Chinese and US companies are increasingly operating in form of partnerships and reciprocating investments. Even as they try to expand their client base, these firms are still subjected to external influence mainly the government. Li Zhifei, founder and CEO of Mobvoi acknowledges that there is a rift between the two biggest global tech centers. However, he affirms that the relationship between Chinese and American tech companies is going to be tighter in a few years.

For instance, the Chinese mobile market forms 20% of the world market. It is the largest in the world, and that is why companies who care about the 20%s are willing to form partnerships with Chinese companies or trade locally. These partnerships will slowly bridge the gap between Chinese tech companies and Silicon Valley.

However, US companies still have a challenge ahead as far setting up operations in China is concerned. China’s local market has aggressive companies who are quick to adjust to the market changes and make decisions promptly. Such companies execute with speed and are quick to identify opportunities in the market. This might be a challenge to foreign companies who operate in the country using remote technology.

Though Silicon Valley companies have a global view, they need to be more localized in China if they want to tap into the country’s rich market and compete well with the local tech companies. We have seen the efforts of Apple who doubled their sales in China’s lucrative market. Facebook is trying to re-establish a foothold there, and other companies have gone as far as to rebuild their entire system to offer services specific to the Chinese market.