Amazon pledges $700 million to teach its workers to code — from wired.com by Louise Matsakis

Excerpt:

Amazon announced Thursday that it will spend up to $700 million over the next six years retraining 100,000 of its US employees, mostly in technical skills like software engineering and IT support. Amazon is already one of the largest employers in the country, with almost 300,000 workers (and many more contractors) and it’s particularly hungry for more new talent. The company currently has more than 20,000 vacant US roles, over half of which are at its headquarters in Seattle. Meanwhile, the US economy is booming, and there are now more open jobs than there are unemployed people who can fill them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

Against that backdrop, Amazon’s jobs skills efforts provide some reassurance that—in theory at least—you could be retrained into a new role when the robots arrive.

 

From the announcement:

Based on a review of its workforce and analysis of U.S. hiring, Amazon’s fastest growing highly skilled jobs over the last five years include data mapping specialist, data scientist, solutions architect and business analyst, as well as logistics coordinator, process improvement manager and transportation specialist within our customer fulfillment network.

 

Also see:

  • Amazon to Invest $700M to Retrain 100,000 Workers for New Jobs — from pcmag.com by Michael Kan Icon
    ‘There is a greater need for technical skills in the workplace than ever before. Amazon is no exception,’ the company said. The goal is to ‘upskill’ one third of Amazon’s total work force by 2025 through free retraining programs.
 

The World’s First Full in VR Semester Course Taught by Survios CTO — from medium.com by Rahel Demant

Excerpt:

VR First is excited to announce its strategic partnership with Axon Park?—?the world’s first educational campus in VR. To kick things off, they are running a full semester course taught in VR. Launching this fall, the course will teach expert-level Unreal Engine VR development, taught remotely by Survios CTO and Co-Founder Alex Silkin with support from the Unreal Engine team.

To enable Axon Park’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through immersive education, VR First has signed a strategic partnership with Axon Park, an organization which maintains the largest network of VR lab enabled universities and science parks internationally. Together, Axon Park and VR First are announcing a needs-based scholarship program that will provide students with low cost or free access to VR hardware and resources through their partner network of 850 universities. With their expertise in VR/AR workforce education and regional tech cluster facilities, VR First is the international distribution partner for Axon Park training solutions to universities, businesses and governments.

 

 

Also see:

Axon Park -- in fall 2019, delivering the world’s first full in VR semester course

 

 

From DSC:
I just ran across this recently…what do you think of it?!

 

 

From DSC:
For me, this is extremely disturbing. And if I were a betting man, I’d wager that numerous nations/governments around the world — most certainly that includes the U.S. — have been developing new weapons of warfare for years that are based on artificial intelligence, robotics, automation, etc.

The question is, now what do we do?

Some very hard questions that numerous engineers and programmers need to be asking themselves these days…

By the way, the background audio on the clip above should either be non-existent or far more ominous — this stuff is NOT a joke.

Also see this recent posting. >>

 

Addendum on 6/26/19:

 

Experts in machine learning and military technology say it would be technologically straightforward to build robots that make decisions about whom to target and kill without a “human in the loop” — that is, with no person involved at any point between identifying a target and killing them. And as facial recognition and decision-making algorithms become more powerful, it will only get easier.

 

 

Russian hackers behind ‘world’s most murderous malware’ probing U.S. power grid — from digitaltrends.com Georgina Torbet

 

U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid — from nytimes.com by David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth

 

 

 

 

 

Survey: Students Choosing Online Programs Closer to Home — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

 

Mentioned in that article:

 

Also see:

“It’s encouraging to see that a majority of students who are studying fully online are reporting great value and satisfaction with their online programs which are largely tied to ambitious career goals,” said Todd Zipper, president and CEO of Learning House, in a prepared statement. “With an increasing population of savvier consumers with high expectations, institutions need to do better at offering more quality, diverse programs that are sensitive to cost in order to keep up with the growing demands of online college students.”

 

From DSC:
If, in the year 2019, most students say online learning is as good or better than face-to-face, what will they say come 2025?  2035? 

Many people will still prefer to have F2F-based learning experiences no matter what year it is. That said, as the innovation continues to occur mainly in the digital/online/virtual realms, F2F will likely find it harder and harder to compete. My advice to current faculty members? Get experience teaching online — and do so as soon as you possibly can.

 

 

From DSC:
I’m wondering to what extent artificial intelligence will be used to write code in the future…and/or to review/tweak/correct code…? Along these lines, see: “Introducing AI-Assisted Development to Elevate Low-Code Platforms to the Next Level.”

Excerpt:

Mendix was founded on the belief that software development could only be significantly improved if we introduced a paradigm shift. And that’s what we did. We fundamentally changed how software is created. With the current generation of the Mendix Platform, business applications can be created 10 times faster in close collaboration or even owned by the business, with IT being in control. Today we announce the next innovation, the introduction of AI-assisted development, which gives everyone the equivalent of a world-class coach looking over their shoulder.

 

 

With flip of a giant ceremonial switch, CMU starts effort to energize ‘learning engineering’ — from edsurge.com by Jeff Young

Excerpt:

Pittsburgh, PA—For a moment this week, the provost of Carnegie Mellon University looked a bit like a game show host as he grabbed the lever of an oversized switch and called on an audience to join him in a countdown—“5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” Then, he toggled the cardboard lever and declared open a new website, one that gave away software that took more than $100 million in grant funding to develop.

It was an unusually theatrical moment for a gathering to announce the release of software tools to help professors improve their teaching. But the organizers were playfully acknowledging the size of their project’s ambition—which they hope will spark a more data-driven and experimental approach to teaching at colleges around the country. And the flair was fitting, since success will end up being based not so much on how well the software works, but on how well its creators can attract momentum to their cause—and change the culture of the academic profession to make teaching an area professors are excited to make discoveries around.

Plenty of others have tried in the past to bring the principles of engineering to college teaching, though with limited success. In fact, the effort at Carnegie Mellon is named for Herbert Simon, a longtime professor at Carnegie Mellon who won a Nobel Prize in economics and devoted his energy and academic capital to trying to spread his ideas about turning teaching from a solo sport to a team effort. But it didn’t catch on widely in his lifetime.

 

From DSC:

…and devoted his energy and academic capital to trying to spread his ideas about turning teaching from a solo sport to a team effort. But it didn’t catch on widely in his lifetime.

Why do you supposed getting faculty members to use a team-based approach is so difficult? We really need to look at that, especially if institutions of higher education are going to keep increasing how much it costs to take courses at their schools — and all the while placing the emphasis on research…not teaching.

Like using an indexing fund in investing — vs. a hand-picked set of stocks — a team-based approach will be more effective the majority of the time. How can it not? There are simply too many skillsets/interests needed, especially as teaching and learning continues to move more online.

 

“Learning by doing appears to have a 6x better [outcome] than learning by watching or reading,” Koedinger said. He and his colleagues published an academic paper with the finding called Learning is Not a Spectator Sport.

 

Also see:

 
 

Microsoft debuts Ideas in Word, a grammar and style suggestions tool powered by AI — from venturebeat.com by Kyle Wiggers; with thanks to Mr. Jack Du Mez for his posting on this over on LinkedIn

Excerpt:

The first day of Microsoft’s Build developer conference is typically chock-full of news, and this year was no exception. During a keynote headlined by CEO Satya Nadella, the Seattle company took the wraps off a slew of updates to Microsoft 365, its lineup of productivity-focused, cloud-hosted software and subscription services. Among the highlights were a new AI-powered grammar and style checker in Word Online, dubbed Ideas in Word, and dynamic email messages in Outlook Mobile.

Ideas in Word builds on Editor, an AI-powered proofreader for Office 365 that was announced in July 2016 and replaced the Spelling & Grammar pane in Office 2016 later that year. Ideas in Words similarly taps natural language processing and machine learning to deliver intelligent, contextually aware suggestions that could improve a document’s readability. For instance, it’ll recommend ways to make phrases more concise, clear, and inclusive, and when it comes across a particularly tricky snippet, it’ll put forward synonyms and alternative phrasings.

 

Also see:

 

 

An algorithm wipes clean the criminal pasts of thousands — from bbc.com by Dave Lee

Excerpt:

This month, a judge in California cleared thousands of criminal records with one stroke of his pen. He did it thanks to a ground-breaking new algorithm that reduces a process that took months to mere minutes. The programmers behind it say: we’re just getting started solving America’s urgent problems.

 
 

We Built an ‘Unbelievable’ (but Legal) Facial Recognition Machine — from nytimes.com by Sahil Chinoy

“The future of human flourishing depends upon facial recognition technology being banned,” wrote Woodrow Hartzog, a professor of law and computer science at Northeastern, and Evan Selinger, a professor of philosophy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, last year. ‘Otherwise, people won’t know what it’s like to be in public without being automatically identified, profiled, and potentially exploited.’ Facial recognition is categorically different from other forms of surveillance, Mr. Hartzog said, and uniquely dangerous. Faces are hard to hide and can be observed from far away, unlike a fingerprint. Name and face databases of law-abiding citizens, like driver’s license records, already exist. And for the most part, facial recognition surveillance can be set up using cameras already on the streets.” — Sahil Chinoy; per a weekly e-newsletter from Sam DeBrule at Machine Learnings in Berkeley, CA

Excerpt:

Most people pass through some type of public space in their daily routine — sidewalks, roads, train stations. Thousands walk through Bryant Park every day. But we generally think that a detailed log of our location, and a list of the people we’re with, is private. Facial recognition, applied to the web of cameras that already exists in most cities, is a threat to that privacy.

To demonstrate how easy it is to track people without their knowledge, we collected public images of people who worked near Bryant Park (available on their employers’ websites, for the most part) and ran one day of footage through Amazon’s commercial facial recognition service. Our system detected 2,750 faces from a nine-hour period (not necessarily unique people, since a person could be captured in multiple frames). It returned several possible identifications, including one frame matched to a head shot of Richard Madonna, a professor at the SUNY College of Optometry, with an 89 percent similarity score. The total cost: about $60.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
What do you think about this emerging technology and its potential impact on our society — and on other societies like China? Again I ask…what kind of future do we want?

As for me, my face is against the use of facial recognition technology in the United States — as I don’t trust where this could lead.

This wild, wild, west situation continues to develop. For example, note how AI and facial recognition get their foot in the door via techs installed years ago:

The cameras in Bryant Park were installed more than a decade ago so that people could see whether the lawn was open for sunbathing, for example, or check how busy the ice skating rink was in the winter. They are not intended to be a security device, according to the corporation that runs the park.

So Amazon’s use of facial recognition is but another foot in the door. 

This needs to be stopped. Now.

 

Facial recognition technology is a menace disguised as a gift. It’s an irresistible tool for oppression that’s perfectly suited for governments to display unprecedented authoritarian control and an all-out privacy-eviscerating machine.

We should keep this Trojan horse outside of the city. (source)

 

MIT has just announced a $1 billion plan to create a new college for AI — from technologyreview.com

Excerpt:

One of the birthplaces of artificial intelligence, MIT, has announced a bold plan to reshape its academic program around the technology. With $1 billion in funding, MIT will create a new college that combines AI, machine learning, and data science with other academic disciplines. It is the largest financial investment in AI by any US academic institution to date.

 

From this page:

The College will:

  • reorient MIT to bring the power of computing and AI to all fields of study at MIT, allowing the future of computing and AI to be shaped by insights from all other disciplines;
  • create 50 new faculty positions that will be located both within the College and jointly with other departments across MIT — nearly doubling MIT’s academic capability in computing and AI;
  • give MIT’s five schools a shared structure for collaborative education, research, and innovation in computing and AI;
  • educate students in every discipline to responsibly use and develop AI and computing technologies to help make a better world; and
  • transform education and research in public policy and ethical considerations relevant to computing and AI.

 

 

How MIT’s Mini Cheetah Can Help Accelerate Robotics Research — from spectrum.ieee.org by Evan Ackerman
Sangbae Kim talks to us about the new Mini Cheetah quadruped and his future plans for the robot

 

 

From DSC:
Sorry, but while the video/robot is incredible, a feeling in the pit of my stomach makes me reflect upon what’s likely happening along these lines in the militaries throughout the globe…I don’t mean to be a fear monger, but rather a realist.

 

 

Law schools escalate their focus on digital skills — from edtechmagazine.com by Eli Zimmerman
Coding, data analytics and device integration give students the tools to become more efficient lawyers.

Excerpt:

Participants learned to use analytics programs and artificial intelligence to complete work in a fraction of the time it usually takes.

For example, students analyzed contracts using AI programs to find errors and areas for improvement across various legal jurisdictions. In another exercise, students learned to use data programs to draft nondisclosure agreements in less than half an hour.

By learning analytics models, students will graduate with the skills to make them more effective — and more employable — professionals.

“As advancing technology and massive data sets enable lawyers to answer complex legal questions with greater speed and efficiency, courses like Legal Analytics will help KU Law students be better advocates for tomorrow’s clients and more competitive for tomorrow’s jobs,” Stephen Mazza, dean of the University of Kansas School of Law, tells Legaltech News.

 

Reflecting that shift, the Law School Admission Council, which organizes and distributes the Law School Admission Test, will be offering the test exclusively on Microsoft Surface Go tablets starting in July 2019.

 

From DSC:
I appreciate the article, thanks Eli. From one of the articles that was linked to, it appears that, “To facilitate the transition to the Digital LSAT starting July 2019, LSAC is procuring thousands of Surface Go tablets that will be loaded with custom software and locked down to ensure the integrity of the exam process and security of the test results.”

 

 

 

 

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