For better paying jobs and career potential, digital skills are key

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A lot of attention is paid to the growing need for engineering jobs and STEM degrees, but even simple digital skills can make a big difference. Knowing how to do things like tackle an online spreadsheet or word processing document can open career doors and salary potential in today’s technology-driven age – even for workers without a college degree. 

Proficiency in digital media skills like graphic design and video editing, or knowing how to use sales software tools or fix a computer can provide even more of a leg up. Mastering skills like these can help you land good jobs with higher paying wages that require creativity and collaboration – and offer a pathway to advancing your career.  

Yet there’s a large and growing gap between job seekers who have digital skills and employers with jobs that require them. 

A new report by Capital One and labor analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies  sheds light on just how important these basic digital skills are for millions of Americans – and how adding to them can enhance career progression in many different fields.   

Using digital skills to build a creative future 

In New York City, Bronx Community College student Caroline Espinal, 19, is pursuing a creative path she loves – using technology to make a difference in the lives of others – thanks to skills she developed starting in high school. 

“The world is so technological now, I feel like community college is giving me all the technical skills I need,” she says, noting she found the cost of a four-year degree daunting. Her work experience already includes a stint at Dazzling Discoveries, a kid-oriented “maker space” where she taught young people about coding, 3D printing and more. 

Espinal is an alumnus of the IN-Tech Academy high school in the Bronx and Mouse, a national youth development and technology non-profit. 

The training she received in tech and design has empowered and inspired her to build up skills in digital media and film production. 

As she plans for her future, the skills she’s developing are giving her confidence and courage.  

“With all the knowledge we have today and how easily accessible it is, your passion can drive you. I know that I have so much to bring, whether it is a company that I am going to work for or one that I create, or whether it’s a movie that I direct or a project that I work on.”   

Diving into the data 

Two-thirds of Americans don’t have a college degree, yet more and more employers expect them. Developing key digital skills often can get you in the door without a degree – and unlock the potential for stable, long-term employment.  In fact, the digital skills marketplace shows clear pathways for workers to advance without four-year degrees. Digital skills play a big role in jobs that require creativity and judgment.  

According to the study of 27 million online job postings by Burning Glass Technologies and Capital One: · 

  • Basic digital skills help you get started in your career and succeed. Mastery of spreadsheet and word processing programs are considered a given for most jobs: 79 percent of middle-skill jobs require them. 

  • Digital skills provide a path to high-skill jobs. Basic computer programming, web design, and social media skills can advance you upward in your career. They provide strong salary opportunities for middle-skill jobs and are critical in high-skill jobs. 

  • Jobs that are more digitally demanding pay more. Baseline digital skills alone pay a 17 percent premium over non-digital roles. Training in information technology (IT) or customer relationship management (CRM) software can boost pay to $28 an hour or more – the kind of pay that places you in the top 25 percent of all earners.   

Building skills to start a career in tech 

In Brooklyn, Vladimyr Menard can attest to the trends the report outlines – and to the power of digital skills training. He turned to tech-education programs at non-profits Global Kids and Per Scholas as a teenager to get exposure and training that helped him start a career in tech. 

Now, he’s fixing PCs and printers – often stripping them down to a component level and re-building them – at a tech services firm.  

“One of the things I love about the tech field is that you have to keep learning,” he says.  

The new report builds on an earlier study by Capital One and Burning Glass Technologies that first explored how the rapid growth of digitally intensive middle-skill jobs can offer a promising career path for Americans who lack a bachelor’s degree. Both are part of Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, which is focusing $150 million on community grants and support to prepare more Americans with the skills, tools, and resources they need to succeed in the digital economy. 

“In an age when technology is transforming the world around us, we have to make sure we’re doing everything we can to narrow the opportunity gap between job seekers looking for a solid career track and employers who need people with the right skills,” says Catherine Foca, Vice President of Community Affairs at Capital One. 

With Future Edge, the goal is to holistically address the digital skills gap in part by identifying underlying trends. Digital fluency has become critical in the path to careers that offer good pay and upward mobility. As part of Future Edge, Capital One has partnered with Mouse, Global Kids, Per Scholas, and other non-profits to help more people get exposure and learn these skills. 

Vladimyr says he hadn’t really thought about tech or computers until he got to Global Kids. He says the program – and former director and founder Barry Joseph – changed his life. 

“Barry has been a real positive influence in my life,” he says. “And I feel like my passion for technology came through their Playing for Keeps program,” which teaches kids how to design video games with socially conscious themes. 

To test your digital prowess, you can take a skills challenge here. To learn more about Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, go here.   

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How to (Maybe) Play the Super Secret Copy of NES Golf Hidden on Your Nintendo Switch

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Image: Gizmodo/Screenshot

Last weekend, a user calling themselves yellows8, posted an intriguing discovery to SwitchBrew.org, a site dedicated to finding ways to hack the Nintendo Switch. Hidden on every Switch console is a mysterious game called Flog, which turns out to be an emulated version of the 1984 NES game Golf upgraded with motion controls. An even bigger mystery was finding a way to actually play the game, and it turns out it’s far from easy.

Why Golf? Satoru Iwata was Nintendo’s fourth president and CEO, but he was also a coder, and in 1984 he created his own data compression tool to squeeze a golf game, complete with 18 holes, onto an NES cartridge. Unfortunately, on July 11, 2015, Iwata passed away from complications resulting from a bile duct tumor he had had removed a year before. It’s not known how the NES Golf game found its way into the Switch’s firmware, but accessing it reveals it was almost definitely put there by someone at Nintendo as a tribute to Iwata.

Unfortunately, launching Golf isn’t as easy as just entering the Konami code, or any combination of button presses. For starters, as testers on the GBA Temp forums and SwitchBrew have discovered, the Switch’s internal clock first has to match the date of Iwata’s passing, July 11. If you’ve ever connected your Switch to the internet, there’s currently no way to access the Golf game, because the console’s internal clock automatically syncs itself to network time. But if your Switch has never been online, that internal clock syncs itself to what’s been user-specified in the settings, which means you can simply hop into the Switch’s settings and dial back the clock to July 11.

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Image: Made from Nintendo Direct presentation

It gets a little easier after that, but only slightly. With the date adjustment made, you need to head back to the Switch’s main menu, and detach each Joy-Con. With a controller in each hand, you then need to reproduce a very specific motion that Iwata had used in a Nintendo Direct presentation. With both arms down, hold each Joy-Con pointing downwards, and then raise your hands until the controllers are in front of your face, in a vertical position. If you’ve done everything right, after holding that pose for a moment, the classic NES Golf game will supposedly automatically launch, as several videos posted online, including one from the BBC, have shown.

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Unfortunately, the success rate for getting this to reliably work has been abysmal. As SwitchBrew points out, there is additional Switch criteria that needs to be met for this Easter Egg to be revealed, and so far no one has been able to figure out exactly what those are. Some testers have also been trying to find ways to completely reset their internet-connected Switches back to factory conditions, but that involves dismantling the units and removing backup batteries, which doesn’t seem worth it?

Only a handful of testers have managed to get Golf to load, and so far no one has posted a complete, unedited video of the entire unlocking process (including the BBC). To make matters worse, the game doesn’t seem to be completely finished, and actually playing a round using motion controls and the Switch’s Joy-Cons has proven to be confusing. It’s a fun Easter Egg, but your time will probably be better spent unlocking all of Breath of the Wild’s secrets instead.

[SwitchBrew.org via Ars Technica]

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Cryptocurrency Concentration – Just 4% Own Over 95% Of Bitcoin

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Bitcoin has been making a lot of news lately. The cryptocurrency shot up in value by over 200% in 2017, making many people fear that the market is in a bubble. Last week, China decided to close its bitcoin exchanges, which caused investors around the world to panic about the currency’s long-term viability. But HowMuch.net asks, how many people own bitcoin, and how is the currency distributed around the world? Check out our new visualization.

Source: HowMuch.net

Our graph represents the entire bitcoin market, which has a value of around $60 billion. For comparison, that’s bigger than several well-known companies, like Fed-Ex and General Motors. We then divided the value of the bitcoin market by address. As you can see, over 95% of all bitcoins in circulation are owned by about 4% of the market. In fact, 1% of the addresses control half the entire market. 

There are a couple limitations in our data. Most importantly, each address can represent more than one individual person. An obvious example would be a bitcoin exchange or wallet, which hold the currency for a lot of different people. Another limitation has to do with anonymity. If you want to remain completely anonymous, you can use something called CoinJoin, a process that allows users to group similar transactions together. This makes it seem like two people are using the same address, when in reality they are not. 

So it’s a complex situation. but let’s try to break bitcoin down as simple as possible. Bitcoin is just a type of money, like dollars and euros. The main difference is that there isn’t a sovereign government backing the currency, and it instead lives online. This is possible thanks to something called the blockchain. Banks and companies must keep detailed records of where they send money, marking it possible to detect fraud and criminal activity. The blockchain works differently because it breaks each transaction into tiny components, routes the pieces through a computer network, and directs them to a recipient who can then re-assemble the code together. If you don’t have the right key, you can’t own a bitcoin. And if you aren’t at the right digital address (think your home network’s IP address), then you can’t receive bitcoin.

The technology is hard to understand, and it presents challenges for companies and people who want to use it. That’s why folks typically turn to a vendor like Coinbase to handle their transactions. You know how you carry physical money in your personal wallet? Think of Coinbase as a digital wallet. You use it to buy stuff and pay for services. But be careful—people can steal your digital wallet, and the thieves can be untraceable. And that’s the issue. There’s only a very limited number of bitcoin wallet providers out there. It’s not like you can just go to your local bank and buy some bitcoin.

The big takeaway from all this is that if you are considering purchasing some bitcoin, you have very limited options. There are only a few key players in the game where you can park your investment. And if you do make that purchase, understand that it is highly speculative and unregulated, so prepare for a bumpy ride.

from Zero Hedge http://bit.ly/2hglR8M
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The Future Of Artificial Intelligence (According To Pop Culture)

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The unpredictable nature of super-intelligent, self-improving machines lends itself quite nicely to the dramatic storylines of movies and books.

It’s a science fiction writer’s dream – as Visual Capitalist’s Jeff Desjardins warns: if AI becomes smart enough to create more advanced versions of itself, pretty much every outcome is on the table. Machines could empower humanity to become enlightened and virtuous. On the less optimistic side? Machines could instead ruthlessly enslave all of humankind to tickle their own warped sense of satisfaction.

POP CULTURE PERSPECTIVES

From the plot of movies like The Terminator to The Matrix, pop culture offers up innumerable examples of what could happen from the rise of the machines – and most of them, as you can imagine, steer towards the less optimistic side of the spectrum.

Today’s infographic from BBC Future provides an entertaining take on these scenarios, organized by potential likelihood.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Some experts see AI having a $15.7 trillion impact on our economy, but pop culture offers up a slightly different perspective of what the future may hold.

FUTURE AI SCENARIOS

Here are just some of the scenarios offered up in mainstream movies, books, and television shows. Some are apocalyptic and dystopian, and some seem just plain bizarre:

Seductive Siris: In 2013’s Her, Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with an intelligent operating system named Samantha.

 

Self-Replicating AI: In 1995’s Screamers, scientists create a self-replicating weapon with one purpose: to destroy all life.

 

The Singularity: AI vies to take over the world in 1982’s classic Tron.

 

Rampaging Robots: In 1973’s Westworld, recently re-envisioned as a different TV series by HBO, murderous androids go on a killing spree in a futuristic Disney-style theme park.

 

Feeling Machines: In the 1999 movie Bicentennial Man, a household robot experiences emotions, creative thoughts, and eventually develops sentience.

 

Androids Among Us: Artificial beings infiltrate society undetected in TV series Battlestar Galactica.

 

Human Enslavement: In the 1999 movie The Matrix, all life on Earth is an elaborate facade. The robots are really the ones in command, but you wouldn’t know it until you take the “red pill”.

 

Mind Upload: Digitized humans gain immortality and then wreak havoc, such as in 2014’s Transcendence.

ONE CERTAINTY

While some of these ideas seem far-fetched, it’s worth noting that not all future scenarios are as distant as they may seem.

With computing power increasing exponentially, the tail end of the hockey stick could happen sooner than we may think.

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The KellyCaster reveals what accessibility means for instruments

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John Kelly recently played the debut of a new instrument, the KellyCaster. But this musician, this instrument, are significant for more than just novelty.

It’s more than likely that you haven’t heard of John Kelly. So before talking about the instrument, it’s worth explaining not just who he is, but why he’s had an instrument named after him. John is a talented musician and songwriter who has extensive experience with multiple instruments and has recorded and played live internationally. John is also a musician with access needs. Probably a lot of people might say he’s a “disabled” musician, but I prefer the previous description, and I will explain why before the end of this piece.

John’s personal page gives a full picture of him and his work. You can also check out Drake Music, the UK nonprofit with which he collaborates. Their self-described mission is to create “a world where disabled people have the same range of opportunities, instruments and encouragement, where disabled and non-disabled musicians work together as equals.” That includes artist-led projects, like John’s KellyCaster.

However, to me, these pages don’t really do him complete justice. Meeting him in person brings this story to life. I was lucky enough to do just that at the KellyCaster launch a few weeks ago.

Meet a new instrument

Whilst the KellyCaster might look like a slightly strange guitar, first looks can be deceiving. Just a cursory glance at the KellyCaster belies the wealth of technology that went into making it work. It’s complex and well put together specifically to serve John’s need.

John, together with a collection of musical friends, played a short set quickly had the audience dancing and singing along. It was deeply powerful, as this was a first. It was a first not just for someone playing this instrument, but for John playing any guitar live, making the previously impossible possible.

The gig showcased John playing the KellyCaster, and how it could operate as part of the band in the same way that any other instrument would. That worked beautifully — all the technology that sits behind the KellyCaster simply disappeared.

In fact, that was what really impressed me. I can’t remember when exactly, but at some point during the performance, I simply forgot that there was all of this tech making it work, and just enjoyed the gig. The KellyCaster was just another instrument. All that was left was a group of talented musicians working together to create a truly wonderful experience for their audience.

While this technology can be invisible to the audience, it’s essential to the instrument’s function. And it’s a significant achievement, the culmination of an extensive design and construction process as part of Drake Music’s DMLab programme which was funded as part of the Inclusive Creativity project.

The KellyCaster uses standard but untuned guitar strings, which are amplified using a Roland GK hexaphonic pickup. This feeds into a BELA, the embedded platform for ultra low-latency audio, using custom electronics. The code in the Bela reads the attack and sustain of each individual string and feeds this information over OSC (Open Sound Control data) using a USB connection to a MacBook Pro. A Max for Live patch reads this data and allows it to control guitar synthesis, as well as select which note or group of notes/chords is selected in each case. John maps this to a MIDI controller to allow him complete the harmonic control.

The development process

The KellyCaster was brought to life by a talented team, starting work over two years before its debut. The design idea itself came directly from John Kelly himself, who conceived and a specification for an accessible guitar, bespoke to his own unique access needs. He presented that idea to Drake Music’s DMLab meeting to invite collaboration.

Gawain Hewitt took up management of the project, and created a first prototype. The new technology in the instrument is the work of Charles Matthews, who developed code and electronics. He assembled this portion in a Drake Music accessible music technology hackathon at the Southbank Centre over a weekend in May, with input from the musician as well as Dave Darch.

There were more conventional instrumental design inputs, as well. The luthier (that’s someone who builds or repairs stringed instruments) was Jon Dickinson, who did an incredible job on the bodywork.

The innovative resulting instrument won the hackathon, and was featured in the Independent’s ‘I’ paper that same week.

Changing how we think about meeting needs

As I hope you can see, it takes time, creativity, and dedication to get this kind of outcome, and this is just one example of Drake’s work with bespoke instruments. Drake Music’s DMLab is dedicated to the research and development bespoke instruments for disabled musicians, instruments that make a real difference to those individuals’ ability to work and to perform live. Drake’s DMLab have used this process for a number of commissions, and there are more in the pipeline that I hope to be talking about over the next few months.

At the start, I described John as a musician with access needs rather than as a disabled musician. That’s a really important point in understanding this instrument. It was built in response to an access need. When that need is met, John is still a musician, but his needs from the instrument have been satisfied. Job done. However, if I were to describe John as a disabled musician, we might see the KellyCaster as a solution to a problem. Whilst it’s great that we’ve fixed the problem, we would still refer to John as a disabled musician, and that could infer a disparity with other musician – one that simply doesn’t exist.

It might seem like a very subtle point, but I believe it’s a very important distinction. By developing the KellyCaster to meet John’s need, the team as a whole have removed a barrier that John faced. With technologies like this, many more access needs could be addressed and barriers removed for a range of artists. We can move away from seeing musicians with access needs in terms of their disability, and understand them in terms of their talent and creativity. That has to be a better model.

The KellyCaster is making a big step forward for accessibility. I don’t know what comes next or how it will be taken forward. But it has a huge potential to be applied in other instruments, devices and contexts. I’ll be staying close to Drake and the team to see what happens next. As and when it does I’ll let you know.

A very big thank you to Emile Holba for the photos used above.

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