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Update August 2017


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Update August 12, 2017

SoftBank CEO sees massive data, AI as key to future advances

Boston Dynamics Chief Executive Marc Raibert, right, gestures beside his four-legged robot SpotMini as SoftBank Group Corp. Chief Executive Officer Masayoshi Son, left, watches him on stage during a SoftBank World presentation at a hotel in Tokyo, Thursday, July 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Yuri Kageyama

Tokyo (AP) - Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank Group Corp., says artificial intelligence combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will bring on an “information revolution,” that will benefit people more than the 19th Century Industrial Revolution.

Son, Japan’s richest person, told Softbank customers and partners gathered at a Tokyo hotel on Thursday that he believes massive data will help treat cancer, deliver accident-free driving and grow safer food.

SoftBank, the first carrier to offer the Apple iPhone in Japan, has bought leading British semiconductor company ARM, and its acquisition of U.S. robotics pioneer Boston Dynamics, announced last month, is undergoing regulatory approval. Its investments have included Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba and Yahoo Japan.

Son set up a private fund last year for global investments in the technology sector, called Vision Fund, with the potential to grow to as much as $100 billion. He has won praise from President Donald Trump for promising to invest $50 billion in U.S. startups to create 50,000 jobs.

This week Softbank announced it will invest in Encored, a U.S. company specializing in IoT technology in the energy sector.

During a nearly three hour presentation, Son introduced some of the ventures he is partnering, including OneWeb, whose founder and chairman Greg Wyler wants to offer affordable internet access for everyone using satellites instead of underground cables.

Son also brought on stage Spot, a four-legged robot that can climb steps and dance. Other robots will be able to carry heavy loads, said Marc Raibert, Boston Dynamics chief executive.

“Marc, we are going to change the world together,” Son said on stage.

SoftBank already offers one of the most sophisticated companion robots on the market, the chatty, childlike Pepper. Son seemed a bit protective of his flagship robot, saying those who have criticized it as “not too smart” haven’t seen what he has planned.

Another of Son’s partner ventures, Guardant Health, offers blood biopsies, which are safer and quicker than tissue biopsies, to detect cancers in their early stages.

Son noted the prevalence of ARM’s chips in nearly all smartphones and wearables. Sensor technology can enhance a doctor’s surgical skills or help train doctors in an emergency room with virtual reality, said ARM Chief Executive Simon Segars.

Data gathered from such omnipresent sensors will be far greater than what can be gotten from mobile phones or computers, Son said, opening up all kinds of possibilities for delivering better human life.

“Those who rule chips will rule the entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world.” Son said. “That’s what people of the future will say.”


China announces goal of AI leadership by 2030

In this Oct. 21, 2016 photo, an autonomous vehicle is put through its paces at the World Robot Conference in Beijing. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Joe McDonald

Beijing (AP) - China’s government has announced a goal of becoming a global leader in artificial intelligence in just over a decade, putting political muscle behind growing investment by Chinese companies in developing self-driving cars and other advances.

Communist leaders see AI as key to making China an “economic power,” said a Cabinet statement on Thursday, July 20. It calls for developing skills and research and educational resources to achieve “major breakthroughs” by 2025 and make China a world leader by 2030.

Artificial intelligence is one of the emerging fields along with renewable energy, robotics and electric cars where communist leaders hope to take an early lead and help transform China from a nation of factory workers and farmers into a technology pioneer.

They have issued a series of development plans over the past decade, some of which have prompted complaints Beijing improperly subsidizes its technology developers and shields them from competition in violation of its free-trade commitments.

Already, Chinese companies including Tencent Ltd., Baidu Inc. and Alibaba Group are spending heavily to develop artificial intelligence for consumer finance, e-commerce, self-driving cars and other applications.

Manufacturers also are installing robots and other automation to cope with rising labor costs and improve efficiency.

Thursday’s statement gives no details of financial commitments or legal changes. But previous initiatives to develop Chinese capabilities in solar power and other technologies have included research grants and regulations to encourage sales and exports.

“By 2030, our country will reach a world leading level in artificial intelligence theory, technology and application and become a principal world center for artificial intelligence innovation,” the statement said.

That will help to make China “in the forefront of innovative countries and an economic power,” it said.

The announcement follows a sweeping plan issued in 2015, dubbed “Made in China 2025,” that calls for this country to supply its own high-tech components and materials in 10 industries from information technology and aerospace to pharmaceuticals.

That prompted complaints Beijing might block access to promising industries to support its fledgling suppliers. The Chinese industry minister defended the plan in March, saying all competitors would be treated equally. He rejected complaints that foreign companies might be required to hand over technology in exchange for market access.

China has had mixed success with previous strategic plans to develop technology industries including renewable energy and electric cars.

Beijing announced plans in 2009 to become a leader in electric cars with annual sales of 5 million by 2020. With the help of generous subsidies, China passed the United States last year as the biggest market, but sales totaled just over 300,000.


Update August 5, 2017

What drug-dealing ‘darknet’ sites have in common with eBay

This screen grab provided by the U.S. Department of Justice shows a hidden website that has been seized as part of a law enforcement operation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and European law enforcement agencies acting through Europol. (U.S. Department of Justice via AP)

Anick Jesdanun

New York (AP) - AlphaBay, the now-shuttered online marketplace that authorities say traded in illegal drugs, firearms and counterfeit goods, wasn’t all that different from any other e-commerce site, court documents show.

Not only did it work hard to match buyers and sellers and to stamp out fraud, it offered dispute-resolution services when things went awry and kept a public-relations manager to promote the site to new users.

Of course, AlphaBay was no eBay. It went to great lengths to hide the identities of its vendors and customers, and it promoted money-laundering services to mask the flow of bitcoin and other digital currencies from prying eyes.

Such “darknet” sites operate in an anonymity-friendly internet netherworld that’s inaccessible to ordinary browsers. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering just how they really work, a U.S. criminal case unveiled Thursday offers an eye-opening look.

What is AlphaBay?

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions calls it the largest darknet marketplace shut down in a sting. Darknet refers to the use of various technologies to mask the site’s operators and users, allowing buyers and sellers to connect anonymously - to each other and to law enforcement.

Authorities say the site trafficked drugs such as heroin and cocaine, fake and stolen IDs, computer hacking tools, firearms and counterfeit goods. The site also facilitated services such as money laundering and swatting - the practice of making bomb threats and other false reports to law enforcement, usually to harass perceived enemies.

AlphaBay went so far as to hire scam watchers to monitor and quash scams on the site. It had a public-relations manager responsible for outreach to users and the broader illicit-trade community. The site also employed moderators to resolve disputes and refund payments when necessary.

Staying hidden

AlphaBay hid its tracks with Tor, a network of thousands of computers run by volunteers. With Tor, traffic gets relayed through several computers. At each stop, identifying information is stripped, so that no single computer knows the full chain. It would be like one person passing on a message to the next, and so on. The 10th person would have no clue who the first eight people are.

Tor has a number of legitimate uses. Human rights advocates, for instance, can use it to communicate inside authoritarian countries. But Tor is also popular for trading goods that eBay and other legitimate marketplaces won’t touch.

To further promote secrecy, AlphaBay accepted only digital currencies such as bitcoin and monero. In doing so, participants skirted reporting requirement that come when moving $10,000 or more in a single transaction. While bitcoin can be traced when converted back to regular currencies, AlphaBay offered “mixing and tumbling services” to shuffle bitcoin through several accounts before the conversion.

Vendors were also required to use encryption for all communications to keep them safe from spies.

Money matters

Buyers funded their accounts with digital currencies, similar to loading an Amazon gift card with money. When making a purchase, buyers moved money from their accounts to an escrow. The payment was released to sellers once buyers confirmed receipt of the goods.

AlphaBay took a 2 percent to 4 percent commission, and that added up. The suspect behind the site, Alexandre Cazes, had amassed a fortune of $23 million. As part of the case, authorities sought the forfeiture of properties in Thailand, bank accounts and four vehicles, including a Lamborghini and a Porsche.


Russian parliament bans use of proxy Internet services, VPNs

Moscow (AP) - Russia’s parliament has outlawed the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs, and other Internet proxy services, citing concerns about the spread of extremist materials.

The State Duma on Friday unanimously passed a bill that would oblige Internet providers to block websites that offer VPN services. Many Russians use VPNs to access blocked content by routing connections through servers outside the country.

The lawmakers behind the bill argued that the move could help to enforce Russia’s ban on disseminating extremist content online.

The bill has to be approved at the upper chamber of parliament and signed by the president before it comes into effect.

Russian authorities have been cracking down on Internet freedoms in recent years. Among other things they want Internet companies to store privacy data on Russian servers.
 


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

SoftBank CEO sees massive data, AI as key to future advances

China announces goal of AI leadership by 2030


What drug-dealing ‘darknet’ sites have in common with eBay

Russian parliament bans use of proxy Internet services, VPNs


 



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