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  1. Children who are cyberbullied are three times more likely to contemplate suicide, according to a study in JAMA Pediatrics in 2014. With such facts and figures, who could argue that there’s something to worry about. Throw in the increased unease within big technology companies such as Facebook about the corrosive effects of rumor and fake news in its feeds, and among executives such as former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya that they’ve unleashed a potentially destructive force, and the argument would seem airtight.

    Except that it’s not. Widespread parental apprehension combined with studies lasting only a few years, with few data points, and few controls do not make an unequivocal case. Is there, for instance, a control group of teens who spent an equivalent amount of time watching TV in the 70s or playing arcade video games in the 80s or in internet chat rooms in the 90s? There is not. We may fear the effects of the smartphone, but it would seem that we fear massive uncertainty about the effects of the smartphone at least as much.

    Any new technology whose effects are unknown bears careful study, but that study should start with a blank slate and an open mind. The question should not be framed by what harm these devices and technologies cause but rather by an open-ended question about their long-term effects.

    Take the frequently cited link between isolation, cyber-bullying, depression and suicide. Yes, suicide rates in the U.S. have been on the rise, but that has been true since the early 1990s, and prevalence is highest among middle-aged men, who are most disrupted by the changing nature and demographics of employment but are not the teens spending so many hours glued to their devices. Cyber-bullying is an issue, but no one kept rigorous data about physical and psychological bullying in the 20th century, so it’s impossible to know if the rate and effects of bullying have grown or diminished in a cyber age. As for depression, there too, no one looked at the syndrome until late in the 20th century, and it remains a very fuzzy term when used in mainstream surveys. It’s impossible to say with any certainty what the effects of technology and depression are, especially without considering other factors such as income, diet, age, and family circumstances.

    Some might say that until we know more, it’s prudent, especially with children, to err on the side of caution and concern. There certainly are risks. Maybe we’re rewiring our brains for the worse; maybe we’re creating a generation of detached drones. But there also may be benefits of the technology that we can’t (yet) measure.

    Consider even an anodyne prescription such as “everything in moderation.” Information is not like drugs or alcohol; its effects are neither simple nor straightforward. As a society, we still don’t strike the right balance between risk and reward for those substances. It will be a long time before we fully grapple with the pros and cons of smartphone technology.
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  2. To suck the air out of the DevLoop, Hyperloop One used a row of small pumps, housed in a metal building to one side. These are off the shelf components, typically used in steel factories or meat processing plants (it’s probably better not to ask for details). They can drop the pressure inside the tube to under 1/1000th of atmospheric conditions at sea level, the equivalent of what you get at 200,000 feet. By that point, the few air molecules left are not going to get in the way of a speeding vehicle. At the right hand end of the tube, one section of pipe, about 100 feet long, operates as an airlock. A 12-foot steel disc slides across to separate that chunk from the longer tube, so that pods or other vehicles can be loaded in and out without having to pump the whole tube down to vacuum, which takes about four hours.

    The company plans to run these tubes along pylons, which should be easy enough, and lets it avoid some of the engineering work that comes with laying heavy rail tracks along the ground. This short tube isn't quite level, sloping down with the contour of the land, which a production system could do, gently, too. “That allows us to minimize the cost of the civil structures while keeping our elevations in check,” says Mock.

    Where the tube meets each T-shaped pillar of concrete holding up the 2.2 million pound structure, sits a sliding bracket. Any civil engineer has wrestled with metal's habit of expanding and contracting as temperatures change, and the Hyperloop crew in the desert is no exception. Even this relatively short section of steel changes length by several feet. “It moves a lot, and we had to account for that in the design,” says Mock. A full sized Hyperloop, running, say, 350 miles from LA to San Francisco, would need some sort of sliding expansion joints, which the company says its design will accommodate.
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  3. When Facebook first came to Cambodia, many hoped it would help to usher in a new period of free speech, amplifying voices that countered the narrative of the government-friendly traditional press. Instead, the opposite has happened. Prime Minister Hun Sen is now using the platform to promote his message while jailing his critics, and his staff is doing its best to exploit Facebook’s own rules to shut down criticism — all through a direct relationship with the company’s staff.

    In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has held power since 1998, a reign characterized by systematic looting, political patronage and violent suppression of human rights; when opposition parties used Facebook to organize a strong showing in the 2013 elections, Hun Sen turned to the tool to consolidate his slipping hold on power.

    In this he was greatly aided by Fresh News, a Facebook-based political tabloid that is analogous to far-right partisan US news sources like Breitbart; which acted as a literal stenographer for Sen, transcribing his remarks in "scoops" that vilify opposition figures and dissidents without evidence. Sen and Fresh News successfully forced an opposition leader into exile in France, and mined Facebook for the identities of political opponents, who were targeted for raids and arrests.

    The Cambodian government has cultivated a deep expertise in Facebook's baroque acceptable conduct rules, and they use this expertise to paint opposition speech as in violation of Facebook's policies, using the company's anti-abuse systems to purge their rivals from the platform.

    Offline, the government has targeted the independent press with raids and arrests, shutting down most of the media it does not control, making Facebook -- where the government is able to silence people with its rules-lawyering -- the only place for independent analysis and criticism of the state.

    Then, last October, Facebook used Cambodia in an experiment to de-emphasize news sources in peoples' feeds -- a change it will now roll out worldwide -- and hid those remaining independent reporters from the nation's view.

    Opposition figures have worked with independent researchers to show that the government is buying Facebook likes from clickfarms in the Philippines and India, racking up thousands of likes for Khmer-language posts in territories where Khmer isn't spoken. They reported these abuses to Facebook, hoping to get government posts downranked, but Facebook executives gave them the runaround or refused to talk to them. No action was taken on these violations of Facebook's rules.

    Among other things, the situation in Cambodia is a cautionary tale on the risks of "anti-abuse" policies, which are often disproportionately useful to trolls who devote long hours and careful study to staying on the right side of the lines that companies draw up, and scour systems for people they taunt into violations of these rules, getting the platforms to terminate them.

    When ordinary Facebook users find a post objectionable, they click a link on the post to report it. Then a Facebook employee judges whether it violates the platform’s rules and should be taken down. In practice, it’s a clunky process that involves no direct communication or chance for appeal, and the decisions made by Facebook can seem mysterious and arbitrary.

    But for the Cambodian government, that process has been streamlined by Facebook.

    Duong said every couple of months, his team would email an employee they work with at Facebook to request a set of accounts be taken down, either based on language they used or because their accounts did not appear to be registered to their real names, a practice Facebook’s rules forbid. Facebook often complies, he said.

    Clare Wareing, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company removes “credible threats, hate speech, and impersonation profiles when we’re made aware of them.” Facebook says it only takes down material that violates its policies.
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  4. Since the earliest days of Facebook, social scientists have sent up warnings saying that the ability to maintain separate "contexts" (where you reveal different aspects of yourself to different people) was key to creating and maintaining meaningful relationships, but Mark Zuckerberg ignored this advice, insisting that everyone be identified only by their real names and present a single identity to everyone in their lives, because anything else was "two-faced."

    Zuck was following in the footsteps of other social network entrepreneurs who attempted to impose their own theories of social interaction on mass audiences -- danah boyd has written and presented extensively on the user rebellions of Friendster from people who wanted to form interest-based affinity groups and use pseudonymous identities for different activities, which Friendster rejected out of a mix of commercial concerns (it wanted users to arrange their social affairs to make it easier to monetize them) and fringe theories of social interaction.

    But while all the other social networks collapsed, Facebook thrived, and imposed the Zuckerberg model of "one identity, one context" on billions of users, who, research consistently finds, are made unhappy and angry by their use of the service, but are nevertheless psychologically compelled to continue using it, creating a vicious feedback loop that even Zuck has acknowledged as a risk to his business.

    In 2008, I found myself speaking with the big boss himself, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I was in the second year of my Ph.D. research on Facebook at Curtin University. And I had questions.

    Why did Facebook make everyone be the same for all of their contacts? Was Facebook going to add features that would make managing this easier?

    To my surprise, Zuckerberg told me that he had designed the site to be that way on purpose. And, he added, it was "lying" to behave differently in different social situations.

    Up until this point, I had assumed Facebook's socially awkward design was unintentional. It was simply the result of computer nerds designing for the rest of humanity, without realising it was not how people actually want to interact.

    The realisation that Facebook's context collapse was intentional not only changed the whole direction of my research but provides the key to understanding why Facebook may not be so great for your mental health.

    The secret history of Facebook depression Dr Kate Raynes-Goldie/ »
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  5. Il problema “vero” non sono le bufale o la post verità, ma le persone, i cittadini, il loro essere facilmente condizionabili…la loro eterodirezione e “predisposizione” – socialmente e culturalmente “costruita” attraverso l’educazione e i processi di socializzazione – al conformismo e/o alla “sudditanza per abitudine culturale”, come avrebbe detto Étienne de La Boétie.

    Il problema è e continua ad essere lo stesso: si discute tanto, con sempre maggiore frequenza e insistenza e si pongono tutte le questioni, inerenti la rivoluzione digitale e la società della condivisione (1996), l’informazione e la condivisione/distribuzione delle informazioni e delle conoscenze, in termini di gestione dell’emergenza attraverso “strumenti” e “applicazioni” più o meno sofisticati e complessi (algoritmi, piattaforme etc.) – oltre che di leggi e codici deontologici, linee guida, manifesti – che devono orientare, guidare, indirizzare il lettore, l’ascoltatore, il telespettatore, l’internauta, il cittadino ma anche il giornalista e/o il comunicatore. Con un approccio che è a metà tra il determinismo tecnologico e il positivismo giuridico. Ebbene, al contrario di quanto discusso, attuato e praticato (tutte condizioni necessarie ma non sufficienti), bisognerebbe ripartire proprio da quei fattori considerati, al di là dei proclami e degli slogan, meno importanti e decisivi: dall’educazione e formazione critica della Persona anche nel suo ruolo di lettore, ascoltatore, telespettatore, navigatore, ma soprattutto di “cittadino” che non è soltanto “consumatore” (logica e strategia di lungo periodo).
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  6. Some entries are ambiguous. Take Microsoft, under the “operational services” category. PayPal apparently supplies the tech company with an image of a customer–a photo or video–or their image from an identity document for the purposes of “facial image comparison for fraud protection” and “research and testing as to appropriateness of new products.” The former sounds like some kind of facial recognition system that PayPal uses to look for fraud. But the latter is uneasily broad. What kind of research is Microsoft doing using pictures of PayPal users’ faces? PayPal did not comment on this specific question.
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  7. La strada che il Miur ha scelto di imboccare va nella direzione opposta rispetto alla Francia, dove da pochi giorni il ministro dell’Istruzione Jean-Michel Blanquer ha introdotto il divieto di usare gli smartphone a scuola. Due risposte alternative al medesimo fenomeno: in Italia l’89,3% dei giovani usa i 'telefoni intelligenti', col primo apparecchio posseduto già a 8-9 anni. L’Italia punta sull’educazione a partire dalla convinzione che «proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione » (n.2). Chi avrà ragione?
    Il decalogo

    1 Ogni novità comporta cambiamenti. Ogni cambiamento deve servire per migliorare l’apprendimento e il benessere delle studentesse e degli studenti e più in generale dell’intera comunità scolastica.

    2 I cambiamenti non vanno rifiutati, ma compresi e utilizzati per il raggiungimento dei propri scopi. Bisogna insegnare a usare bene e integrare nella didattica quotidiana i dispositivi, anche attraverso una loro regolamentazione. Proibire l’uso dei dispositivi a scuola non è la soluzione. A questo proposito ogni scuola adotta una Politica di Uso Accettabile (PUA) delle tecnologie digitali.

    3 La scuola promuove le condizioni strutturali per l’uso delle tecnologie digitali. Fornisce, per quanto possibile, i necessari servizi e l’indispensabile connettività, favorendo un uso responsabile dei dispositivi personali (BYOD). Le tecnologie digitali sono uno dei modi per sostenere il rinnovamento della scuola.

    4 La scuola accoglie e promuove lo sviluppo del digitale nella didattica. La presenza delle tecnologie digitali costituisce una sfida e un’opportunità per la didattica e per la cultura scolastica. Dirigenti e insegnanti attivi in questi campi sono il motore dell’innovazione. Occorre coinvolgere l’intera comunità scolastica anche attraverso la formazione e lo sviluppo professionale.

    5 I dispositivi devono essere un mezzo, non un fine. È la didattica che guida l’uso competente e responsabile dei dispositivi. Non basta sviluppare le abilità tecniche, ma occorre sostenere lo sviluppo di una capacità critica e creativa.

    6 L’uso dei dispositivi promuove l’autonomia delle studentesse e degli studenti. È in atto una graduale transizione verso situazioni di apprendimento che valorizzano lo spirito d’iniziativa e la responsabilità di studentesse e gli studenti. Bisogna sostenere un approccio consapevole al digitale nonché la capacità d’uso critico delle fonti di informazione, anche in vista di un apprendimento lungo tutto l’arco della vita.

    7 Il digitale nella didattica è una scelta: sta ai docenti introdurla e condurla in classe. L’uso dei dispositivi in aula, siano essi analogici o digitali, è promosso dai docenti, nei modi e nei tempi che ritengono più opportuni.

    8 Il digitale trasforma gli ambienti di apprendimento. Le possibilità di apprendere sono ampliate, sia per la frequentazione di ambienti digitali e condivisi, sia per l’accesso alle informazioni, e grazie alla connessione continua con la classe. Occorre regolamentare le modalità e i tempi dell’uso e del non uso, anche per imparare a riconoscere e a mantenere separate le dimensioni del privato e del pubblico.

    9 Rafforzare la comunità scolastica e l’alleanza educativa con le famiglie. È necessario che l’alleanza educativa tra scuola e famiglia si estenda alle questioni relative all’uso dei dispositivi personali. Le tecnologie digitali devono essere funzionali a questa collaborazione. Lo scopo condiviso è promuovere la crescita di cittadini autonomi e responsabili.

    10 Educare alla cittadinanza digitale è un dovere per la scuola. Formare i futuri cittadini della società della conoscenza significa educare alla partecipazione responsabile, all’uso critico delle tecnologie, alla consapevolezza e alla costruzione delle proprie competenze in un mondo sempre più connesso.
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  8. Drivers at many companies say they had no choice but to break federal safety laws that limit truckers to 11 hours on the road each day. Drivers at Pacific 9 Transportation testified that their managers dispatched truckers up to 20 hours a day, then wouldn’t pay them until drivers falsified inspection reports that track hours. Hundreds of California port truckers have gotten into accidents, leading to more than 20 fatalities from 2013 to 2015, according to the USA TODAY Network's analysis of federal crash and port trade data.

    Many drivers thought they were paying into their truck like a mortgage. Instead, when they lost their job, they discovered they also lost their truck, along with everything they’d paid toward it. Eddy Gonzalez took seven days off to care for his dying mother and then bury her. When he came back, his company fired him and kept the truck. For two years, Ho Lee was charged more than $1,600 a month for a truck lease. When he got ill and missed a week of work, he lost the truck and everything he’d paid.

    Retailers could refuse to allow companies with labor violations to truck their goods. Instead they’ve let shipping and logistics contractors hire the lowest bidder, while lobbying on behalf of trucking companies in Sacramento and Washington D.C. Walmart, Target and dozens of other Fortune 500 companies have paid lobbyists up to $12.6 million to fight bills that would have held companies liable or given drivers a minimum wage and other protections that most U.S. workers already enjoy.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-20)
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  9. there's only four months before the EU's General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect, which will make almost all the practices described in this report illegal, on penalty of hundreds of millions in fines. No one has really done anything to prepare for this imminent day -- they seem to be playing chicken with the EU, betting that if no one complies with the rule, the EU won't just turn around and start shutting down the entire internet industry. That's a pretty high-stakes bet.

    Because of its ambiguity a person's legal name has always been a bad identifier for data collection. The postal address, in contrast, has long been, and still is, a key attribute that allows combining and linking data about consumers and their families from different sources. In the digital world, the most relevant identifiers used to link profiles and behavioral data across different databases, platforms, and devices are email addresses, phone numbers, and unique codes that refer to smartphones or other devices.

    User account IDs of the large platforms such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft also play an important role in following people across the Internet. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Roku assign “advertising IDs” to individuals, which are now widely used to match and link data from devices such as smartphones with other information from all over the digital world. Verizon uses its own identifier to track users across websites and devices. Some large data companies such as Acxiom, Experian, and Oracle have introduced globally unique IDs for people, which they use to link their decades-old consumer databases and other profile information from different sources with the digital world. These corporate IDs mostly consist of two or more identifiers that are attached to different aspects of the online and offline life of someone and can be linked to each other in certain ways.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-20)
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  10. The reduction of size and number of parts wasn’t the only benefit that Optisys saw by 3D printing the antenna array. Conventional methods of manufacturing antennas such as the Monopulse Array can take eight months of development time on average, plus three to six more of build time. By using 3D printing, Optisys was able to reduce lead time to two months. In addition, production costs were reduced by 20-25% and non-recurring costs were reduced by 75%. Weight savings added up to 95%.

    “Our unique offering is that we redesign everything from an additive manufacturing perspective,” says Optisys COO Robert Smith, M.E. “We take into account the entire system functionality, combine many parts into one, and reduce both development and manufacturing lead times to just a few weeks. The result is radically improved size and weight at lower costs.

    In addition to what our test-piece project revealed, 3D printing offers a number of other advantages. When we design multiple antenna components into a single part, we reduce the overall insertion loss of the combined parts. And because our antennas are so much smaller this also lowers insertion loss dramatically despite the higher surface roughness of AM build, for similar or even better RF performance than conventional assemblies.”
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-19)
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