Anchor brings podcast creation and editing to the iPad

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Following its relaunch earlier this year as a podcast creation platform, Anchor today is bringing its suite of mobile podcasting tools to the iPad. Like its iPhone counterpart, the iPad version of Anchor lets you record, edit, then distribute your podcast anywhere, including iTunes and Google Play Music. The new app is also customized for touch-based editing, and it takes advantage of iPad features like drag-and-drop and multitasking.

The company had originally been focused on short-form audio, but more recently realized it could better serve the growing audience of podcasters with a set of easy-to-use tools available right on their mobile device.

The iPhone version of Anchor lets you press a button to record your audio, record with friends, insert voice messages (like call-ins) into your podcast, and easily add music and transitions. The iPad app now offers a similar set of tools, with a few upgrades and tweaks.

For starters, you can opt use a real microphone by plugging one into your iPad’s lightning port, or by using a lightning-to-USB adapter.

You can also upload or even drag and drop audio files from other apps into Anchor for use in its episode builder. For example, you could pull in music from GarageBand, add a voice memo, or import other audio files saved in a cloud storage site like Dropbox.

The app support multitasking, too, so you can keep your notes open as your record.

And you can directly edit the audio files on the iPad itself using touch-based controls that are easy enough for anyone – even novice or amateur podcasters – to use.

The controls allow you to trim the beginning and end of your podcast, so you can cut out issues like false starts or other chatter. And you can split audio clips in order to insert transitions, voice messages, music, and other audio.

The clips can then be moved around or deleted as you put your podcast together.

Given the popularity of podcasting today, it’s actually fairly remarkable that no one else had yet introduced audio editing tools built with the needs of podcasters in mind.

The Anchor app is also another example of how the iPad can be used for content creation, not just consumption – and specifically, how it can be used as an editing tool for creative projects.

Anchor for iPad, like the iPhone app, is free to use as the company is currently living off its funding. But the longer-term plan is to offer monetization tools to Anchor’s podcasters, where Anchor itself would likely take a cut of revenues.

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Photographer explains the viral photo of a crying child at the border

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Photographer explains the viral photo of a crying child at the border

The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy has seen the separation of thousands of parents and children. Getty Images photographer John Moore documented what this policy looks like in a single photo that quickly became viral. CNN reporter Ana Cabrera interviewed Moore about this gut-wrenching photo of a crying toddler. In this video, he shares the story of what was going on that night and how he documented it.

Moore was in Texas’ Río Grande Valley on a ride-along with Border Patrol, photographing their activities. When the people would come across to the U.S. side of the border, the Border Patrol would gather them all together and take their names and IDs. Moore admits that seeing the children in the crowd was particularly emotional for him, considering that he is a father himself. For the same reason, this photo was especially difficult for him to take.

The photographer had an opportunity to speak to the girl’s mother very briefly. She told him that they had been traveling from Honduras through Mexico for a month. At the point when they reached Mexican border, they had already been through a lot. The mother was among the last people to be body-searched before entering the van that would take her to the processing room. An officer asked her to put the child down, she broke into tears, and this is when Moore took the photo.

He explains that it’s not uncommon for toddlers to experience separation anxiety and start crying when a parent puts him down. But in a situation like this, it gets an entirely different context and gives a new meaning to the little girl’s tears.

Moore told the reporter that he was covering situations like this multiple times. At the time of crossing the border, the parents didn’t know that they would be separated from their children. But seeing these situations before, the photographer knew it. Because of this, he admits that taking these photos was always difficult for him “as a journalist, as a human being, and especially as a father.”

After taking this photo, the mother and her daughter were put into a van and driven away. Moore explains that the separation process happens far from cameras, and this is as close as you can get to this horrible situation as a journalist. He felt overwhelmed with emotions, as he tells the reporter. Sadly, he couldn’t do anything, but the photo remains to testify of the horrible treatment these parents and children go through.

[Photographer explains photo of crying toddler at border via FStoppers]

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From Bruises To Broken Bones, These Are The Most Common Drinking-Related Injuries

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Most Common Drinking-Related Injuries

iStockphoto

While most drinking injuries tend to minor bruises or cuts, there are some people out there that use liquid courage to live life on the wild side. I know, crazy, right? Hard to imagine alcohol causing someone to suddenly become a daredevil. Especially considering, on average, Americans consume 1.4 drinks per day, 9.5 drinks per week, and 494 drinks per year.

Anyhoo, with these thoughts in mind, the team over at Injury Claim Coach decided that they wanted to know more, so they asked 1,003 Americans to tell them about the stories of cuts, bruises, and fractures, as well as tales of birthdays, bachelor parties, and other tumbles they’ve taken while drinking. Go figure, but these people had a lot to tell.

A quick look at their findings show…
• Unlike millennials and baby boomers, Gen X women initiate more fights while drinking than men.
• Republicans were the first ones to swing a punch when drinking, followed by Independents and Democrats.
• The average injury occurs after consuming 6.5 drinks for women and 8.5 drinks for men.
• Arms and legs made the top three for most-injured body parts among tipsy folks from both genders.
• Twenty percent of broken bones occurred while celebrating New Year’s Eve.

Beer, America’s favorite booze, was the culprit behind 58 percent of these reported alcohol-related injuries, which, according to the stats, most likely ended up being some kind of bruise obtained at house party.

However, women reported that most of their drinking incidents occured while chugging vodka in their own home.

It also turns out that the riskiest events (outside of just a plain old regular day of drinking), where people actually broke bones, were birthday parties. The most likely culprits? Beer, vodka, and whiskey.

When it comes to drinking-related bruises, 31 percent of women having hurt their leg and 25 percent of men having sustained an arm injury, while 18 percent of women and 19 percent of men hurt their head.

Here’s a shocking statistic: 23 percent of the respondents had initiated a drunken fight at one point or another. And 23 percent of those people said they have since forgotten (or perhaps never knew) why they started the fight in the first place.

Another shocking stat? Alcohol-related injuries peak aggressively at age 22 — the age when binge-drinking is most prevalent (and twice as common among men compared to women).

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Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics,ICOs

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Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics,ICOs,Financial Inclusion

Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics,ICOs,Financial Inclusion

Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics, ICOs, Financial Inclusion

1. Introduction and context

The global economy is going through a fast growing and highly disruptive stage. Innovative technologies have fostered the emergence of P2P digital platforms driven by cryptocurrencies, which are shifting the foundations of economics as we have known them to be for the past 100 years.

As corporations, organisations and governments undergo this change, most of them are not ready for the powerful disruptive waves going through the economy and society in general. Part of this revolution is based on the way we look at work and the structures supporting our current systems. Blockchain is so important, that Wired magazine stated in an article written in 2015, that the technology would lead us to the “renaissance of money.” 

In this article, we will be looking at how we are swiftly embracing the cryptocurrency economy by reinventing what we see as money through blockchain, AI, and IOT.

What is Blockchain technology?

Blockchain’s inception, tends to be traced to less than a decade ago, with the invention of bitcoin.  But actually a kind of proto-blockchain was already in place in the seventies, according to Roger Wattenhofer from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, who further explains that its two main ingredients were:

1. Asymmetric cryptography– military grade security to store data that has yet to be hacked or broken into
2. Distributed systems-not reliant on one central computer”

In a nutshell, Blockchain enables us to:

1. Create records and record all transactions that have taken place
2. Transfer value on a peer to peer basis globally
3. Automate records and actions- thus digitising many tasks and jobs

The technology became better known in 2008  as  the distributed ledger behind Bitcoin. Fast forward to 2018, cryptocurrencies are now driving the world dynamics. Amongst many others, Bitcoin and Ether, another important cryptocurrency, take the world by storm.

The blockchain revolution will change everything. Presently, it is the second most important technology, second only to artificial intelligence (AI). Whether we like it or not, we will soon be living in a world run by cryptoeconomics.

Bitcoin, Ether, Ripple, they are all examples of  blockchain based coins, that are part of the landscape of cryptoeconomics.

Vlad Zamfir, of the Ethereum project, defines cryptoeconomics as follows:

“A formal discipline that studies protocols that govern the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services in a decentralized digital economy. Cryptoeconomics is a practical science that focuses on the design and characterization of these protocols.”

As this is happening, we are facing a lot of challenges. Many governments, including big nations such as India, remain non-committal and neutral to bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. Others, such as Japan, have embraced them and made them legal, while other governments such as Venezuela have cracked down on cryptocurrencies by rendering them illegal. Is it because governments fear that cryptocurrencies can destabilise a highly regulated financial banking system or their national currencies?

Governments’ reluctance is understandable, as the bitcoin ecosystem has been compromised in the past — the Mt. Gox scandal being a case in point. However, the bitcoin/blockchain protocol in itself has never been compromised. More than bitcoin, it is the underlying technology -blockchain- that is showing promise. Besides companies, governments are warming up to the potential of this technology across sectors.

The sector has been subject to a lot of volatility as the world tries to regulate and understand this technology. But whether we like it or not it is here to stay.

Image source Dinis Guarda

2. How Blockchain is disrupting the venture capital industry: ICOs

Venture capitalists have been investing in innovation and disruption for a very long time, but as an industry, they rarely innovate themselves. But change is in the air. Blockchain promises to disrupt the whole venture capital Industry, and some VCs are now aware of that. In an interview with influential thought leader and VC Brock Pierce he states:

“Venture capitalists have been investing in innovation and disruption for a very long time, but as an industry they rarely innovate themselves. If you’re in the blockchain or bitcoin space, our view is that we’re trying to decentralize the world, we’re trying to democratize the world in a way that creates a level playing field where everyone has equal access. Crowdfunding was the first major leap in the democratization of the world of early-stage finance. I believe the tokenization of it—what we’re doing—is the next, even larger leap. Since I’m a VC, and I believe in the concept of disruption, and of disrupting yourself—you know, someone can come and do it to my business, or I can do it to myself—I hope to put the GP/LP structure out of business. That is my goal over time.”

The democratising of the venture capital industry is certainly an welcomed innovation. What enables it is the convergence of the financial technology, with blockchain, cryptocurrencies and decentralised systems. An example of this disruption is the new trend of ICOs.

ICO stands for Initial Coin Offering. An ICO is an event in which a new blockchain project sells part of its cryptocurrency tokens to the public in exchange for money today. ICOs enable the cryptocurrency project to raise money for its operations. Most ICOs raise money in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. ICOs are more and more frequent as innovators in the industry are
creating liquid venture funds, allowing access to a broader group of investors, investing in the trend of start-ups doing ICOs.

ICOs “investments” are here to stay and will be partly how startups will be financed in the future. Historically venture capital funds have only allowed elite investors in. So one merit of ICOs is they allow small investors from all over the world to participate.The crucial question is then how this will be regulated. And rather than circumventing regulations, innovators and entrepreneurs have to ask themselves: “Is this something that can be done within the rules? Can we do this compliantly?”

A few governments have tackled this question. In 2014, the Monetary Authority of Singapore gave some guidance around how to create tokens, i.e virtual currency, so we can incorporate the entity doing the ICO in Singapore.

2017 saw an explosion of ICOs and cryptocurrencies, and the crypto/blockchain community attracted a lot of attention. Recently, (June 2018) the community was hit by the announcement  by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that bitcoin and ether are not securities, whereas many, but not all ICOs are securities and will come under the regulatory control of the SEC and relevant securities laws.

William Hinman, head of the Division of Corporation Finance at the SEC, said in a speech at the Yahoo All Markets Summit: Crypto conference in San Francisco:

“Central to determining whether a security is being sold is how it is being sold and the reasonable expectations of purchasers,”  

What explains SEC’s decision, is the decentralised character of ether/bitcoin. According to Louise Matsakis, in  a recent article for Wired:

“In essence, when a cryptocurrency becomes sufficiently decentralized, as the widely popular bitcoin and ether have, the agency no longer views it as a security. In contrast, smaller initial coin offerings, or ICOs, are almost always securities in the SEC’s eyes. That distinction matters, because securities are subject to the same regulations as normal stocks.”

Ether and bitcoin are considered decentralized by the SEC, because they are the result of hundreds of different developers all over the place that run applications on top of the Ethereum network and/or contribute to the development of its code.  The evolution of the software relies on the concerted effort of these developers, and that means that there isn’t a visible third party upon whom investors can rely, which is very different from traditional securities, like Apple or Microsoft stock. Whereas in these companies, investments can be made on a specific company’s efforts to develop products and services and generate income that is not the case of bitcoin and ether.

But most of the smaller ICOs though, will be considered securities.These will have an impact in many industries and will certainly provoke a lot of tsunamis.

3. How an ICO works the Ethereum platform

How does an ICO works on the Ethereum platform? Through a smart contract! The Ethereum smart contract works like this. It says: “I’m investing one bitcoin, ‘let’s say it’s worth $1,000′, and at the end of the crowdsale I get $1,000 worth of that token.” So instead of having, a CFO issuing share certificates, the smart contract sends you tokens that represent the security in that same company.

Ethereum is still a prototype that will evolve, but definitely one of its main applications will be in  ICOs. At the inception of Ethereum, at the time of Ethereum’s crowd sale, you had to keep a ledger, a log, to keep track of people’s investment and manually issue them the coins. Nowadays, Ethereum is  being used frequently and successfully for doing a crowd sale and getting the tokens in the investors’ hands. Over 80% of the ICOs are happening there today, so it might become the killer platform to finance the startups of the future! 2017 and 2018 saw a lot of evolution in the ICO sector, so now, you can invest in our crowd sale using a combination of bitcoin, Ether or fiat money. 

If many feel tempted to invest in ICOs, they are hold back by fear concerning lack of regulation. But contrary to what much people think, the sector is regulated, even if the regulations are changing and improving all the time, due to the speed of change of blockchain technology, which is at its infancy.

What is going on is similar to what happened in the beginning of the Internet. A lot of regulations existed prior to the Internet as well. These were not considered to be great regulations, but evidently, regulation is a living moving concept, that adapts to the needs of the moment and to the organic evolutions happening. So any one working in this sector, needs to be on top of what is new in terms of regulation.

Be innovative, be disruptive, go out there and change the world, but do it the right way. If you’re going to take risks, at least understand what they are.

 

The post Blockchain, Cryptoeconomics,ICOs appeared first on Intelligent Head Quarters.

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104 Generation Zs reveal what it’s like to be a teen in 2018

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teens


Generation Z is the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history.

And they’re the youngest — Pew Research Center defined them recently as everyone born after 1997

We usually view teens and the younger generations with a tinge of derision. And Gen Zs, with their obsession over Instagram and rejection of hourly work, are primed for the utmost scorn by their elders. 

But we’re more likely to understand what Generation Z is all about by talking to them. 

Business Insider surveyed 104 Generation Zers nationwide to find out what it’s like to be a teenager in 2018. Learn below about their opinions, fears, dreams, and complexities.

SEE ALSO: Generation Z is already moving away from Facebook, and 8 more industries could be next

DON’T MISS: Teenagers are less likely to work today than any generation before them, and some say school is to blame

SEE ALSO: The US allows teens to start working at 14 — here’s how to get a first job in every state

Who did we talk to?

Business Insider surveyed 104 teens aged 13 to 19. They came from all over the US, including North Carolina, New York, and Michigan.

Many survey respondents came from WeAreGenZ, a consultancy and think tank powered by Gen Zs nationwide.

The average teen got their first smart phone just before their 12th birthday.

Nearly 80% of teens got their first smartphone between the ages of 11 and 13.

Almost 3% of teens got their first smartphone at age 8, and 6% at 15 or older.

  • "We are the first generation to have had access to smartphones our whole lives. We communicate through social media and texts, which changes the dynamic of communication." — 19-year-old
  • "Everything in our generation is immediate. Since we have been raised in an age where texts and messages can be sent in the blink of an eye, we are less patient than other generations because we are used to having instant gratification. But our generation is also very determined to show that we are capable of real thoughts and using the technology and communication methods we have been given for making change, despite what older generations expect from us." — 15-year-old

Most teens had an iPhone.

Among survey respondents, 94% had an Apple phone.

That’s higher than what other surveys have shown, but not shockingly so. Investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray found that, in their semi-annual survey of around 6,000 American teens, 84% of teens plan that their next phone will be Apple. 

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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3 Misunderstood But Important Buttons on Your Camera Explained

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Today’s modern DSLR cameras have so many functions, buttons, and menus that it can be confusing and overwhelming to learn how to use properly. In this article, you’ll learn about three commonly misunderstood, but extremely important buttons on your camera. See what they each do, and when to use them.

#1 – The Depth of Field Preview Button

This is one that is not often used but it really handy once you know what it’s for, the depth of field preview button. Let’s have a look.

#2 – The Exposure Compensation Button

Next up is the Exposure Compensation button or dial. I use this one a lot with my Fuji X-T1 and X100F cameras when I’m shooting in Aperture Priority mode, which is most of the time. See where to find on your camera and how to apply it here.

#3 – Auto Exposure Lock (AEL)

Finally, the last button you should learn about is the AEL or Auto Exposure Lock button. It’s very handy when you want to lock your exposure, or your focus, or both and take multiple images of the same scene, with different compositions.

Can you confidently say you are familiar with and comfortable using all these buttons on your camera? If not, make it a habit to learn one new thing about your camera every day. Get to know all the buttons and dials. If you can’t figure it out, consult your camera user manual. Or search for your camera and model number on YouTube to find some good tutorials specific to your setup.

Know your camera inside and out. Then, and only then can you decide if it’s time to upgrade or not. But that’s another topic for another day!

The post 3 Misunderstood But Important Buttons on Your Camera Explained appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Machines learn language better by using a deep understanding of words

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Computer systems are getting quite good at understanding what people say, but they also have some major weak spots. Among them is the fact that they have trouble with words that have multiple or complex meanings. A new system called ELMo adds this critical context to words, producing better understanding across the board.

To illustrate the problem, think of the word “queen.” When you and I are talking and I say that word, you know from context whether I’m talking about Queen Elizabeth, or the chess piece, or the matriarch of a hive, or RuPaul’s Drag Race.

This ability of words to have multiple meanings is called polysemy. And really, it’s the rule rather than the exception. Which meaning it is can usually be reliably determined by the phrasing — “God save the queen!” versus “I saved my queen!” — and of course all this informs the topic, the structure of the sentence, whether you’re expected to respond, and so on.

Machine learning systems, however, don’t really have that level of flexibility. The way they tend to represent words is much simpler: it looks at all those different definitions of the word and comes up with a sort of average — a complex representation, to be sure, but not reflective of its true complexity. When it’s critical that the correct meaning of a word gets through, they can’t be relied on.

ELMo (“Embeddings from Language Models”), however, lets the system handle polysemy with ease; as evidence of its utility, it was awarded best paper honors at NAACL last week. At its heart it uses its training data (a huge collection of text) to determine whether a word has multiple meanings and how those different meanings are signaled in language.

For instance, you could probably tell in my example “queen” sentences above, despite their being very similar, that one was about royalty and the other about a game. That’s because the way they are written contain clues to your own context-detection engine to tell you which queen is which.

Informing a system of these differences can be done by manually annotating the text corpus from which it learns — but who wants to go through millions of words making a note on which queen is which?

“We were looking for a method that would significantly reduce the need for human annotation,” explained Mathew Peters, lead author of the paper. “The goal was to learn as much as we can from unlabeled data.”

In addition, he said, traditional language learning systems “compress all that meaning for a single word into a single vector. So we started by questioning the basic assumption: let’s not learn a single vector, let’s have an infinite number of vectors. Because the meaning is highly dependent on the context.”

ELMo learns this information by ingesting the full sentence in which the word appears; it would learn that when a king is mentioned alongside a queen, it’s likely royalty or a game, but never a beehive. When it sees pawn, it knows that it’s chess; jack implies cards; and so on.

An ELMo-equipped language engine won’t be nearly as good as a human with years of experience parsing language, but even working knowledge of polysemy is hugely helpful in understanding a language.

Not only that, but taking the whole sentence into account in the meaning of a word also allows the structure of that sentence to be mapped more easily, automatically labeling clauses and parts of speech.

Systems using the ELMo method had immediate benefits, improving on even the latest natural language algorithms by as much as 25 percent — a huge gain for this field. And because it is a better, more context-aware style of learning, but not a fundamentally different one, it can be integrated easily even into existing commercial systems.

In fact, Microsoft is reportedly already using it with Bing. After all, it’s crucial in search to determine intention, which of course requires an accurate reading of the query. ELMo is open source, too, like all the work from the Allen Institute for AI, so any company with natural language processing needs should probably check this out.

The paper lays down the groundwork of using ELMo for English language systems, but because its power is derived by essentially a close reading of the data that it’s fed, there’s no theoretical reason why it shouldn’t be applicable not just for other languages, but in other domains. In other words, if you feed it a bunch of neuroscience texts, it should be able to tell the difference between temporal as it relates to time and as it relates to that region of the brain.

This is just one example of how machine learning and language are rapidly developing around each other; although it’s already quite good enough for basic translation, speech to text and so on, there’s quite a lot more that computers could do via natural language interfaces — if they only know how.

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How to Conquer Feeling ‘Hangry’

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Hunger has a strange effect on our emotions. Even the nicest folks can get a little upset, irritable, and snippy the minute they start to feel those familiar pangs down in their stomach. One solution is to eat, of course. But when that’s not an option, there is another way you can avoid transforming into a bad Snickers commercial.

A recent study, published in the journal Emotion, attempted to recreate the phenomenon of “hangriness” in order to see how and why it happens. The study, led by Jennifer MacCormack, a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in psychology and neuroscience, involved riling up already hungry people with a lengthy, annoying computer exercise that was designed to crash. As they were about to finish, participants would be greeted with a pre-planned “blue screen of death,” then blamed by research personnel for causing it to happen. Yeah, that would make just about anyone upset. Add on to the fact that one group had been fasting for five hours beforehand, and you’ve got yourself some hangry study participants.

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MacCormack doesn’t know how hunger turns to hangriness exactly, but this study, and others like it, demonstrate how hunger may greatly influence our mood. She explains:

“…it activates many of the same bodily systems, like the autonomic nervous system and hormones, that are involved in emotion. For example, when you’re hungry, your body releases a host of hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, often associated with stress. The result is that hunger, especially at greater intensity, can make you feel more tense, unpleasant and primed for action—due to how these hormones make you feel.”

What’s more is that this same principle might apply to other physical states as well, says Elizabeth Davis, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside. She tells NPR Science that studies like this suggest that our emotions are more closely tied to our physiology than we once thought, and that other physical states may have their own versions of hangry.

But how do you stop this from happening? After all, nobody wants to accidentally say something terrible in a meeting merely because they skipped breakfast. Besides eating something right freakin’ now, MacCormack offers three simple tips for the hangry folks out there:

  1. Be aware of your hunger: The most important thing you can do is recognize that you’re hungry and that you are at risk of becoming hangry. When you feel your stomach growling, stop and tell yourself to tread lightly. A little mindfulness goes a long way here and keeps you from crossing that line. It doesn’t hurt to warn others of your potential hangriness, either.
  2. Inject positivity into your situation: Context matters when it comes to hangriness. Some situations, like being stuck in traffic or near the end of a stressful deadline, are going to increase the likelihood of being hangry. Recognize these situations when you’re more on edge than usual and attempt to change the atmosphere. MacCormack says pleasant music, amusing podcasts, and other things you enjoy can help lower the stress of the situation, thus reducing your risk of becoming hangry.
  3. Pay more attention to your body: Get more familiar with your bodily cues and pay attention when you usually get hungry throughout the day. Plan ahead and bring snacks so you don’t get hungry in the first place. Prevention is the best way to stop it.

When hunger pangs get you down, MacCormack says insight is everything. It’s important you remember to separate your mind from how something is making you feel: that person isn’t terrible, you’re just hungry; that car that cut you off isn’t worth the road rage, you’re just hungry; that isn’t the longest, most pointless meeting of your life, you’re just hungry. Be aware of your hunger, try to make a crummy situation better, then go have a snack when you finally get a chance—you’ll be fine.

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IBM’s new AI supercomputer can argue, rebut and debate humans (IBM, GOOG, GOOGL)

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Dr. Ranit Aharonov, Dr. Noam Slonim, Project Debater, IBM Research, artificial intelligence

  • IBM gave reporters in San Francisco a demonstration of Project Debater. Think Deep Blue, but instead of playing chess, this system debates.
  • Computer scientists have labored for six years to enable an unprecedented system that culls millions of documents of information, listens and comprehends and then forms arguments based on that data. Debater even made jokes.
  • Debater fared well, winning one of the two debates against humans.Warts were visible, however. At times, Debater cited barely relevant data.
  • This is all part of IBM’s pursuit to create computers that master human speech.

IBM once again gave the world an impressive update on the competition between humans and machines.

The company known for building supercomputers that can defeat grand master chess players and champion Jeopardy contestants, hosted another Man vs. Machine contest in San Francisco on Monday. A system that IBM calls Project Debater faced off against two humans in two separate debates.

The verdict: Humans are still ahead, but the gap is closing.

Debater won one of the two debates as voted by the audience, but who won was almost beside the point. What mattered most is that this is the first artificial intelligence system to demonstrate the ability to argue. According to IBM, the technology represents a breakthrough in equipping computers with the ability to " truly understand language" and then be "expressive."

In the war of words, two experienced debaters, Noa Ovadia and Dan Zafrir, took on IBM’s AI. Each competitor opened with a four-minute speech. Then received another four minutes to rebut, and finally each was given two minutes to make a closing argument.

Some of the highlights included Debater’s ability to listen to an opponent’s argument and then attempt to undermine it, much as a human would. Sometimes, Debater guessed at what the opponents would say and launched a preemptive attack against it. Debater even made a couple of attempts at humor, one time acknowledging that its "blood would boil" if it had blood.

Noa Ovadia, Dan Zafrir, Project Debater, IBM, artificial intelligence

Some of the lowlights came when Debater drew upon barely relevant data to make a point. In the debate over the use of telemedicine, Debater cited a Supreme Court ruling in Iowa that was near nonsensical.

We’ve seen a lot of whiz-bang AI applications of late. This is one of the tech sector’s hottest areas and one that companies around the world are vigorously pursuing. The promise is that AI can help us access and analyze big amounts of data faster and more efficiently than humans. For the companies who stake out AI turf, there’s a chance to make big bucks.

Skeptics fear that AI could snatch jobs away from humans, or at the extreme, some day lead humans to a robotic apocalypse.

No doubt, IBM isn’t afraid to continue the march toward more advanced AI. For half a century, the company has  showcased new AI tech by pitting it in head-to-head competitions against humans. The debate Monday hearkened back to February 10, 1996, when IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer made worldwide headlines by defeating Garry Kasparov, the Russian grandmaster, in a single game of chess.

Kasparov won the match that day, but the next year, Deep Blue would best him in a full match. At this stage of Debater’s evolution, IBM isn’t as concerned about winning debates.

“We’re not super obsessed about who wins and loses,” said Dario Gil, vice president of Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Computing at IBM Research. “We’re more interested in seeing AI deal with the human ambiguity, reality, and context. We want to see if it can write well, be persuasive, and give good evidence.”

The audience was asked to identify what their opinions on the two debate subjects (We should subsidize space exploration and we should increase the use of telemedicine)  prior to the start of the debate. Later, they were asked which one of the debaters made the most compelling arguments, the human or the computer. 

To train a computer to debate, IBM said three major hurdles had to be overcome. The system had to gather huge amounts of text, analyze the information, and from that, retrieve relevant and convincing information.

Debater must listen to, and comprehend the opponent’s argument to identify concepts and claims and identify weaknesses.

Finally, the system must recognize human controversy and dilemma so it could “suggest principled arguments.”

Dr. Noam Slonim, Dr. Ranit Aharonov, IBM, artificial intelligence, Project debater

To do all this, IBM’s team of scientists, led by Dr. Noam Slonim and Dr. Ranit Aharonov, developed “a methodology and tooling framework” that they called Cicero, which improves the algorithms that control natural-language processing.

This is all supposed to one day enhance language-based applications. That’s good because for all the promise of AI, all the tech available to consumers so far– especially Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa–none of it seems anywhere near ready to have but the most rudimentary conversations.

Sometimes these digital valets don’t understand basic commands. We seem a long way from the day we can rely on our computers to help us determine if we should vote for one candidate or another, the right and wrong of having an abortion or the pros and cons of joining the military.

But that’s the kind of assistance that IBM appears well on its way to some day giving us.

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The email problem no one is talking about: mistaken identity

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This post is part of Me, online, Mashable’s ongoing series digging into online identities.

In 2009, a San Francisco web strategist named Tim — last name withheld for reasons that will become clear — opened his Gmail to find a message from a Build-a-Bear workshop in St. Louis. The email was addressed to someone called Tamara. 

That’s odd, thought Tim, but thought little more about it. Days later he received an email directed at someone called Toby. It contained photos of a family eating an Easter meal with, his correspondent assured him, “lots and lots of BACON!” 

So far so mundane. But the misdirected emails — for Tyrells, Terrys, Thomases — kept coming at an alarming rate. They often contained the kinds of things you really don’t want shared with strangers: hook-up notes (“I got a bottle so we could drink and I’m putting on a dress”), medical records, divorce papers, real estate deals, demands from a debt collector, a request from a police officer for his license plate, even an autopsy report. 

Tim keeps a folder in his Gmail now, purely for the more random, weird, indiscreet ones he’s received over the last nine years. The folder currently contains 1,355 messages. 

“At first I would write back and say ‘you have the wrong email,'” says Tim. But sometimes the correspondent would keep bugging him: Okay, what’s the right email? The debt collector kept hounding him regardless. These days, with the misdirected emails coming at the rate of one a day, he simply deletes or sends them to spam.

Cases of mistaken identity like this are becoming more common as more people around the globe acquire email addresses — and more of their correspondents misremember or mistype them. But so far as we know there are no email providers, much less startups or security researchers, working to solve the problem. Unlike with spam, there isn’t even a catchy name for it. 

For many recipients, the problem is amusing at best and irritating at worst. Some misdirected emails can even be useful. (One Mashable editor receives regular discount coupons from a liquor store intended for someone else; she invariably uses them.) 

Yet the risk is real. Not just the risk of personal embarrassment when a stranger sees your family photos or love notes, but the risk of identity theft when they see your bank records, mortgage application, divorce decree, or any other of the astonishing amount of personal documents we send via the internet these days. 

Examples are everywhere. You don’t have to look very far on message boards for Microsoft or Apple to find people locked out of their accounts when a security code was sent to the wrong address. In 2016, the National Australia Bank admitted sending emails containing account numbers for some 60,000 customers to the wrong address. The cause? “Human error.”  

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I could empathize with Tim’s problem because it was mine, too. We’d both heard about the arrival of Gmail before it launched in April 2004. We’d both rushed on day one to grab Gmail accounts based on our first initial and last name. We both celebrated our good fortune at the time, not realizing the tangled web that would await years later when you have a common initial-last name combo.

For me, it’s been a long decade and a half of fielding emails for what seems like every Chris, Charles, Cynthia, Claire, Clare, Christian, Catherine and Cheryl Taylor on the planet. I’ll often wake up to discover a flurry of follow-up emails from auto dealerships in North Carolina — this seems to happen in the Carolinas more than other states, for some reason — and surmise that yet another Charles Taylor has gone car shopping and misremembered his email address. (Or worse, he deliberately fobbed those pesky salesmen off with a Gmail address that sounded like it could be his.) 

Like Tim, I’ve given up trying to respond and mark most of these emails as spam, even though that doesn’t quite describe what they are. And even that doesn’t fix the problem, because there are invariably more email newbies making fresh mistakes. It isn’t the greatest thing for productivity; I probably spend a good half-hour of every day extracting misdirected missives from my poor beleaguered inbox.

If that’s all it was, I’d be relatively fine with it. The even larger problem is this: Many popular online services don’t require proof that your email says what you say it is — or they treat “ctaylor” and “c.taylor” as different addresses, whereas mail providers like Gmail treat them as one and the same. 

That means you can sign up for Instagram, say, with someone else’s email address, and they’ll be hit with annoying messages from that day forward. Years ago, someone signed up for Instagram with my email address — or at least, the c.taylor version. Occasionally they’ll try to log in, and guess where the reset code is sent? 

PSA: My actual Instagram account is @futurechris.

PSA: My actual Instagram account is @futurechris.

Meanwhile, someone named Lloyd Taylor successfully signed up for an Apple ID using my Gmail address. (I used a pre-existing account for my Apple ID.) He requests a password reset that gets sent to my email with such regularity, about once every two weeks, that I assumed it was part of some elaborate phishing expedition. 

To its credit, when I contacted the company for this story, Apple was able to confirm that Lloyd is for real. As I write, Apple reps are going through the process of disentangling my address from his account. 

How common is this problem? I asked Twitter, and 56% of those who replied said they’d never encountered it in their own digital lives. But that means a whopping 44% did. 

Granted, it’s not a scientific poll, and more study is needed. But given that there are an estimated 4 billion email accounts in the world (owned by roughly 2 billion people), if 10 percent of people are encountering this problem “all the time,” that’s up to 200 million people affected. This is a hell of a problem for something that doesn’t even have a name. 

I didn’t even have to look that far. My wife Jess has a similar issue, even though she doesn’t have a common last name like me or Tim. And she was smarter than both of us, reasoning at the time that merely using her first initial in the account would bring her more misdirected email than she bargained for.

Then in 2010, a woman with the exact same name in Vermont, evidently disappointed by being beaten to the account, signed up for an email using “Jes” rather than Jess. Ever since, it seems, almost everyone emailing that Jess reached my Jess by mistake — especially since the rise of autocorrect. 

West Coast Jess has received dozens of wedding planning emails, job applications, rental contracts, Comcast logins, orthodontic and hospital appointments for Vermont Jess’ kids, and a hospital ID login. She emailed “Jes” directly, who didn’t seem to see the problem. She tried emailing her correspondents, but found the same thing that Tim and I discovered: Whereas you can say the words “wrong number” and people will understand you when they call, you don’t get the same reaction when you write back and simply say “wrong email.” 

“People think you’re crazy for pointing it out,” Jess says. “They’re adamant that they’ve reached the right person.”

This is where technology could help. Gmail has a button that lets us easily report spam — and unsubscribe from annoying lists — with two clicks. How about a button that will have Gmail write a form letter back to the correspondent, explaining that they have not reached the person they think they’ve reached, to check their records and try again, and maybe don’t hound this person for debt payments?

It’s an interesting concept, but we’re going to have to wait to find out whether Google is interested in implementing it. When I contacted the company for this story, I was told that the Gmail product team is “all heads down” in advance of Google Cloud Next, a conference that isn’t happening for another month from now, and an official “no comment.” 

If and when Gmail and other email providers get around to implementing a fix for the mistaken identity problem, let’s just hope those press releases make their way to the intended inboxes. 

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