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A Swedish startup has implanted micro-chips in its workers, will this be a new trend?

(TECH NEWS) A Swedish startup is using its employees as a test run for human micro-chipping.

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neural lace chips

Are you chipped?

A startup hub in Sweden is literally implanting microchips in their employees.

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So now the question is if you, dear reader, are a cyborg yet.

A shot of rice

The Swedish startup, Epicenter, is home to around 2,000 workers, and so far 150 have been chipped. The process is simple and pretty painless.

Self-described “body hacker” Jowan Osterlund comes in with a syringe and something the size of a grain of rice.

He slides the syringe into the fleshy part between your thumb and index finger, and in that moment you enter the world of William Gibson once and for all.

Well, you know, you can open doors and buy stuff with a wave of your hand. It’s basically the same.

Chipping humans

This technology isn’t new, but it’s rarely used on humans. Our pets, however, have been cyborgs for years, so that we can find them when they’re lost.

They run away, get taken to a vet or shelter, and scanned for cyborg-ness (AKA microchips).

And now we can be just like Fido. Epicenter and a very few other companies are pioneers of widespread human chipping, and they insist it’s something to celebrate. In fact, workers at Epicenter actually throw parties for the soon-to-be chipped.

One handed

“The biggest benefit I think is convenience,” says Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter. “It basically replaces a lot of things you have, other communication devices, whether it be credit cards or keys.”

So that’s cool . . . but privacy?

Remember that? Most new technologies engender some security and privacy concerns, but this thing is literally inside of you.

The implant uses Near Field Communication technology, which is the same thing used in contactless credit cards and mobile payments.

If the chip is activated by a nearby reader, data flows between the devices via electromagnetic waves. These chips are technically “passive,” which means they can’t read info themselves, but can be read by other devices.

That seems safe, right?

Well, maybe. But remember, if you use this chip to unlock the door to your building, your office, and the restroom, and if you use this chip to buy lunch, coffee, and snacks, those reading devices around the workplace have a ton of data about you. What time do you get to work, and when do you leave? Do you take ‘too many’ bathroom breaks? Are you drinking an unhealthy amount of coffee? Are you eating unbalanced meals?

Unlike the data read from your credit card or phone, this data originates from something you can’t easily separate yourself from.

It’s always there, whether you want to use it or not. And to get rid of it, you have to have surgery, not just cut it up.

There’s a difference

Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute says hackers could get a scary amount of information from embedded devices, and the ethics will only get more complicated as the chips get more sophisticated.

“The data that you could possibly get from a chip that is embedded in your body is a lot different from the data that you can get from a smartphone,” Libberton says.

“Conceptually you could get data about your health, you could get data about your whereabouts, how often you’re working, how long you’re working, if you’re taking toilet breaks and things like that.”

And once that data is collected, who gets to see it? What will it be used for?

It’s hard to imagine that the results will be overwhelmingly positive.

This is the next step on our quest for convenience, and if we collectively decide to take it, we will lose privacy.

It already exists

On the other hand, we seem to be basically okay with this. Our phones often know our location, so that data is out there for someone to find. Our credit cards know what we buy, and when and where we buy it.

As chips are normalized like cards and phones, maybe it’ll seem less weird to have our movements tracked by an electronic grain of rice we stuck in our hands. But for now – yeah, it’s weird.

#RiceChip

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

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Microsoft’s latest HUGE investment: Self-driving car technologies

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft invests in self-driving car technology by joining other investors in a combined equity investment of $2 billion.

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Cars driving on city highway, including more than one self-driving car in the future.

Microsoft has put its money into self-driving car technology. The tech giant has partnered with General Motors and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned driverless car startup, to “accelerate the
commercialization of self-driving vehicles.”

“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race – it’s also a trust race,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a press release. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”

Along with Honda and other institutional investors, the companies are investing a combined $2 billion into the autonomous car company. This new funding round brings Cruise to a post-money valuation of $30 billion.

The long-term strategic partnership between the companies will be a collaborative one and beneficial for both. To roll out its fleet of self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, Azure.

In turn, as GM’s and Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, Microsoft will use the car company’s “industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.”

Besides helping bring the self-driving technology out to the market quicker, the companies will also work together on other digitization initiatives. For instance, they will collaborate on artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. And, explore opportunities to streamline operations and increase productivity.

“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred
cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”

Cruise first announced its self-driving car service a year ago, but when it will be deployed isn’t certain yet. With Microsoft as a partner, deploying those cars will help speed things up.

“Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth.”

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Tech News

Wow! This synthetic cornea gave a legally blind man his vision back!

(TECH NEWS) Another instance of “technology is amazing:” this minimally invasive eye implant has opened new doors for sight restoration surgeries for the legally blind.

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Blurry city with a single glass piece held in the middle with a clear view.

After being the first patient to receive a cutting-edge cornea implant, a legally blind 78-year-old man can see again. Directly after his surgery, the patient was able to recognize his family members and read an eye chart. The KPro implant comes from the company CorNeat.

KPro is the first implant that can be directly integrated into the eye wall, replacing damaged or deformed corneas with no donor tissue. The clear layer that protects the front portion of the eye is called the corona. The corona is susceptible to degeneration or scarring, as well as a number of diseases such as keratopathy, keratoconus and pseudophakia bullous.

While artificial cornea implants already exist, the surgeries are complex and typically only used as a last resort when transplants or cornea ring implants don’t work. That is perhaps what makes the CorNeat transplants so remarkable – it’s a simple procedure that’s minimally invasive.

Additionally, KPro uses a biomimetic material that “stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration”. Not only can these implants give you your sight back instantly, but they also can help the natural tissue in your eyes to grow back and integrate. Now, THIS is cool stuff.

CorNeat said that ten more patients in Israel are approved for trials, as well as two in Canada. Six others are in the approval process in France, U.S., and the Netherlands. Professor Irit Bahar of CorNeat stated that he believes this project will ultimately impact millions of people’s lives. Only time will tell.

This advancement in biotech comes at a time where many Americans are uninsured and at a higher risk for health ailments due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent effects. At its best, CorNeat’s KPro offers some hope – while COVID has brought many industries to their knees, advancements in medical technology seem to persist.

If the results of the implants continue to stay as promising as they are now, who knows – maybe we’ll all be receiving cornea implants as a normal part of health upkeep in the not-so-distant future. I know I’ll be first in line.

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Tech News

The top 10 languages you can know as a programmer

(TECH NEWS) Considering a career as a developer or programmer? You’re not alone. Here’s top 10 programming languages to enhance or start your career.

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Two female programmers at a laptop working on a programming screen.

The COVID economy has thousands of Americans reconsidering their career paths – with so many jobs dissolving due to various reasons (i.e., automation, a decrease in full-time creative positions), it’s no wonder why scores of professionals are seeking to reskill ASAP.

If this sounds like you, look no further; have you ever considered the lucrative career of computer programming?

Programmers on average make a salary of $89,590 a year. And better yet, coding jobs might never become obsolete. The trick is to know exactly what you want to do – different coding languages best serve specific purposes. So, which one should you learn first?

Top ten languages for new developers:

  1. Python – Learn Python if you’re interested in data analysis, machine learning, scripting, web development and Internet of Things (it’s the future!). Python is also the easiest language to learn, so give it a go!
  2. JavaScript – JavaScript is for you if you want a career in making websites interactive.
  3. The Go Programming Language – You can learn to build simple, reliable, and efficient software.
  4. Java – Want to work on computer programs, games, apps and web applications? What about Internet of Things and robots? Learn Java to tap into these fields. Keep in mind, Java is considered difficult for novice programmers.
  5. C# – C# is great for websites, web applications, games, and apps – especially Windows apps. It’s also perfect for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
  6. PHP – Want to get your hands dirty doing back-end website programming? PHP is the language for you.
  7. C++ – For programming apps, games and web browsers, C++ is the language you’ll need to learn. Though it’s notoriously tough to grasp, knowing this language could be the competitive edge you need to set you apart from the pool of programmers.
  8. C – C will prepare you for operating systems, compilers and databases.
  9. R – The world is always in need of those who conduct data and statistical analyses – check out R to dive in.
  10. Swift – For apps and software for Apple devices, check out Swift.

My advice? Figure out exactly it is you want to do in your new career as a programmer. Set your goal. Then, after you’re sure what direction you want to go in, see which programming language best suits your needs.

Get proficient at one language to start and become top-notch at it. Then, you can expand your rolodex to include multiple languages and grow your abilities as a programmer.

Good luck!

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