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Could blockchains solve authentication and passwords forever?

(TECH NEWS) Blockchains are earning their way into tech minds from entry level to veteran, and their implications are massive.

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Identity grab bag

Technology is expanding beyond our ability to secure it. Our identities, birthdays, passwords, and the names of our first pets make up the candy bowl of identity for any grubby hand to defile. Currently, our private information is protected by passwords, an antiquated system of whispering secrets to get in the door. Our systems authenticate without actually identifying. This means that anyone with one of your special codes (and we know you have a different password for absolutely everything, right folks?) can access your information, and pretend to be you in the digital world.

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But what if rather than passing along a code that anyone could subvert, our identity was confirmed by the sheer fact that this is us. In a system where everyone controls their individual identity, any company honoring this technology could know immediately if we are who we say we are, or if we’re not.

A new international non profit Sovrin Foundation, is proposing exactly that type of system. Sovrin’s founding goal is to create individual personal identities on the internet in the same way our machines have unique IP’s.

Securing your online presence

Our relationship with our internet identities is founded on mistrust, on the very principle that anyone, with the right flick of keys, could be anyone online. Needless to say, with the growing Internet of Things, that online identity now controls more of your life than you’re probably aware.

Calendar dates, bank info, love letters, the dimness of the lights in your living room, your fridge temperature, and car stats are all protected by the same fragile system. Soon everything with an on and off switch will be connected, leaving us exposed to unimaginable infiltration.

By creating a self-sovereign identity (SSI) for everyone on the planet, Sovrin will change the way we interact with the internet and the way the internet interacts with us.

Each individual or organization will own and have 100 percent control over their identity and with whom they share it. This means that you will choose to share your personal information with governments and institutions rather than governments and institutions storing vast amounts of unsecured identifying data like bait for every two-bit hacker looking to make a buck.

Internet of identity

Sovrins system is complex and massive. Their goal is to be an “internet of identity,” a disconnected but regulating body that manages the systems of identity without having access to the data they manage. Their board of directors is comprised of professionals from an array of industries and countries to ensure neutrality and transparency.

Identities will be broken up into individual packets. Your birthday, address, and phone number will be separately stored, disconnected pieces of information that will only be accessed as you see fit. That way no one has access to all of your information except for you.

With Sovrin we can safely achieve what we can’t currently do online for fear of identity theft.

We can make big purchases, access comprehensive medical records, apply for marriage and birth certificates, even buy homes. Even notarizing may not have to exist in a world where Sovrin has their way. Individual blockchain identities may not replace traditional systems for every company, but users will likely be able to update their Sovrin account to include institutions that may still use passwords.

Something for everyone

The Internet of Things is a complex system in itself that would benefit from a globally recognized blockchain identity like Sovrin. Users will be able to quickly connect devices to their home network of devices without a lot of set up and pairing.

Additionally, businesses wouldn’t have to assume the liability of ensuring that every consumer is who they say they are. Likewise, Sovrin would put consumers on the same playing field. They won’t have to jump through hoops just to purchase something, or remember a million different passwords.

This issue is not just a first world problem for online shoppers, though. Identity storage and identification is a significant question in growing countries as well.

Sovrin proposes that this system will give developing nations an easy way to document land ownership, birth and death certificates, medical records, and refugee information.

We welcome the sovrinty

Sovrin is sort of like the much bigger version of Amazon’s experimental brick and mortar store. It relies on individual identities to create accountability. Once they know that you are who you say you are, Amazon is confident that your connected financial accounts will remit payment for what you took from the shelves. Sovrin seeks to create implicit trust in a world where trust is an oblique and guarded concept.

People just have to be who they are, not remember usernames and passwords and the name of their first dog. Sovrin will help protect all of us from fraud, and keep all of our wonderful devices that we’ve become so reliant on safe.

Sovrin expects to put their program into production in the beginning of 2017. If you’re interested in contributing to the open source service, check out their GitHub page.

#Sovrin

C. L. Brenton is a staff writer at The American Genius. She loves writing about all things, she’s even won some contests doing it! For everything C. L. check out her website

Tech News

AI technology is using facial recognition to hire the “right” people

(TECH NEWS) Artificial intelligence (AI) technology has made its way into the hiring process and while the intentions are good, I vote we proceed with extreme caution.

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Artificial intelligence technology has made its way into the hiring process and while the intentions are good, I vote we proceed with extreme caution.

A UK based consumer goods giant, Unilever, is just one of several UK companies who have begun using AI technology to sort through initial job candidates. The goal of this technology is to increase the number of candidates whom a company can interview at the initial stages of the hiring process and to improve response time for those candidates.

The AI, developed by American company Hirevue, analyzes a candidate’s language, tone, and facial expression during a video interview. Hirevue insists that their product is different from traditional facial recognition technologies because it analyzes far more data points.

Hirevue’s chief technology officer, Loren Larsen, says, “We get about 25,000 data points from 15 minutes of video per candidate. The text, the audio and the video come together to give us a very clear analysis and rich data set of how someone is responding, the emotions and cognitions they go through.”
This data is then used to rank candidates on a scale of 1 to 100 against a database of traits identified in previously successful candidates.

There are two main flaws to this system. First, unless this AI technology is pulling from a huge diverse data pool it could be unintentionally discriminating against people without even being aware of it. Human bias is not as easy to remove from the equation as AI proponents would have you believe.

As an example, how does this AI handle people who are disabled or whose facial expressions that read differently than the general population, such as people with Down Syndrome or those who have survived traumatic facial injuries?

Second, seeking to hire someone who possess the same qualities as the person who was previously successful at a role is shortsighted. There are many ways to accomplish the same task with above average results. Companies who adopt this low-risk mentality could be missing out on great opportunities long-term. You will never know what actually works best if you don’t try.

The big question here is whether or not AI technology is ready to influence the job market on this scale.

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The ‘move fast and break things’ trend is finally over

(TECH NEWS) Time is running out for this decade — and for a popular Big Tech phrase responsible for a lot of collateral damage. What’s next?

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Time is running out for the decade. With less than 20 days left, it’s got us reflecting on the journeys of different economic sectors in the United States. And no industry has had a more tumultuous time of it than Big Tech.

A lot has changed in ten years. For starters, Americans have become increasingly disillusioned with Silicon Valley. The Pew Research Center found that only 50 percent of Americans believe technology firms have a positive effect on the country. That statistic is not too bad on its own, but that’s down 21 percent from only four years ago. Gallup found in 2019 that 48 percent of Americans also want more regulations on Big Tech. And The New York Times called the 2010s as “the decade Big Tech lost its way”.

Maybe that’s why big wigs at these tech firms have been quietly ditching a concept that was their Golden Rule in the early part of the decade: Move Fast and Break Things.

This concept is a modern take on the adage “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” For most of these firms, any innovation justified some of the collateral damage within its wake. And this scrappy “build it now and worry about it later” philosophy was a favorite of not just Facebook and Twitter, but also of many venture capital firms too.

But not anymore. Outlets from Forbes to HBR are saying this doesn’t work for Big Tech in the 2020s. Here are some reasons why it’s over.

Stability

The Move Fast and Break Things manta encouraged devs to push their coding changes to go live and let the chips fall where they may. But bugs pile up. Enter technical debt.

“Technical debt happens every time you do things that might get you closer to your goal now but create problems that you’ll have to fix later,” said The Quantified VC in an article on Medium. “As you move fast and break things, you will certainly accumulate technical debt.”

If enough technical debt comes into play, any new line of code could be the thing that topples a firm like a house of cards. And now that the consumer is used to tech in their daily routines, interruptions in service are extremely bad news for everyone.

As Mark Zuckerburg himself said it: “When you build something that you don’t have to fix 10 times, you can move forward on top of what you’ve built.”

Trust

To get back some of the trust that has ebbed from Big Tech over the years, firms can’t just keep with the Move Fast and Break Things status quo.

“The public will continue to grow weary of perceived abuses by tech companies, and will favor businesses that address economic, social, and environmental problems,” said Hemant Taneja in his article for Harvard Business Review. “Minimum viable products must be replaced by minimum virtuous products that … build in guards against potential harms.”

It’s not about chasing the bottom dollar at the cost of the consumer. Losing trust will hurt any company if left unchecked for long.

Innovation

There’s a cap on advancement in our current technological state. It’s called Moore’s Law. And we’re rapidly approaching the theoretical limits of it.

“When you understand the fundamental technology that underlies a product or service, you can move quickly, trying out nearly endless permutations until you arrive at an optimized solution. That’s often far more effective than a more planned, deliberate approach,” said Greg Satell in his article for HBR.

Soon enough, Big Tech will be in relatively new waters with quantum computing, biofeedback and AI. There’s no way to move as fast as these technology firms have in the past. And even if they could, should they?

Big Tech has experienced major growing pains since the dawn of our new Millenium. And now that some firms are entering their 20s, there’s a choice to be made. Continue to grow up or keep using an idea that’s worn out it’s welcome with the consumer and that has no guarantee will work with future technologies.

Maybe that’s why Facebook’s motto is now “Move Fast with Stable Infrastructure.”

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Computer vision helps AI create a recipe from just a photo

(TECH NEWS) It’s so hard to find the right recipe for that beautiful meal you saw on tv or online. Well computer vision helps AI recreate it from a picture!

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Ever seen at a photo of a delicious looking meal on Instagram and wondered how the heck to make that? Now there’s an AI for that, kind of.

Facebook’s AI research lab has been developing a system that can analyze a photo of food and then create a recipe. So, is Facebook trying to take on all the food bloggers of the world now too?

Well, not exactly, the AI is part of an ongoing effort to teach AI how to see and then understand the visual world. Food is just a fun and challenging training exercise. They have been referring to it as “inverse cooking.”

According to Facebook, “The “inverse cooking” system uses computer vision, technology that extracts information from digital images and videos to give computers a high level of understanding of the visual world,”

The concept of computer vision isn’t new. Computer vision is the guiding force behind mobile apps that can identify something just by snapping a picture. If you’ve ever taken a photo of your credit card on an app instead of typing out all the numbers, then you’ve seen computer vision in action.

Facebook researchers insist that this is no ordinary computer vision because their system uses two networks to arrive at the solution, therefore increasing accuracy. According to Facebook research scientist Michal Drozdzal, the system works by dividing the problem into two parts. A neutral network works to identify ingredients that are visible in the image, while the second network pulls a recipe from a kind of database.

These two networks have been the key to researcher’s success with more complicated dishes where you can’t necessarily see every ingredient. Of course, the tech team hasn’t stepped foot in the kitchen yet, so the jury is still out.

This sounds neat and all, but why should you care if the computer is learning how to cook?

Research projects like this one carry AI technology a long way. As the AI gets smarter and expands its limits, researchers are able to conceptualize new ways to put the technology to use in our everyday lives. For now, AI like this is saving you the trouble of typing out your entire credit card number, but someday it could analyze images on a much grander scale.

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