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AI models could help companies overcome human bias




Machine learning algorithms can reinforce human bias, but representatives from HireVue Inc. and Kantar Millward…

Brown recently argued that they may also be able to remove our biases from processes.

HireVue CTO Loren Larsen said the AI models developed by the on-demand video interview platform company not only make the search for strong candidates more efficient, they also make it fairer for those applying.

The technology enables companies to scale the search process, meaning they can “take more chances and just let someone take [an interview] slot,” Larsen said at the recent Emotion AI Summit in Boston. By adding machine learning, HireVue is hoping to take things a step further and reduce human bias in the hiring process.

Take the example of how a candidate’s looks affect the job search. A HireVue data scientist developed an AI model to determine how much attractiveness might factor into hiring decisions. The model was trained on a public database of images and then was used to score attractiveness on a scale from one to 10.

“It turns out that if you got a seven or higher, you’re twice as likely to get hired than if you were a three,” Larsen said. That figure might be palatable if attractiveness equated to job performance, but, HireVue’s study couldn’t find a correlation between the two.

To that end, HireVue has striven to build AI models that can predict a job applicant’s potential performance — without a human in the loop. The models look for “traditional competencies,” according to Larsen, such as a candidate’s emotional awareness; negotiation skills; ability to collaborate, work with a team and learn.

HireVue’s AI models not only consider what’s being said by job candidates, but how it’s being said. They’re trained to factor in facial expressions and emotion — technology that’s powered by Affectiva, a software company spun out of the MIT Media Lab as well as the conference host.

AI models in advertising

At Kantar Millward Brown, a market research company based out of London, Affectiva’s software is helping make the case for more inclusive commercials. The company specializes in “advertising development work.” It helps clients understand how their ads are likely to be received by viewers and then finds ways to make them better.

“Some of that is done in what this audience may think of as a relatively old-school way: We show people the ads and ask them questions,” said Graham Page, executive vice president and head of global research solutions, at the summit.

Some of the work is done in a decidedly modern way. The firm films participants in a focus group as they watch an advertisement, and then it analyzes facial expressions and other  physiological data using Affectiva’s software “to understand the emotional response to the ad as it plays and what the key moments are that really resonated with people,” Page said.

For example, an analysis of advertisements done for Unilever, one of Kantar Millward Brown’s biggest clients, found that the ads categorized as “more progressive,” or more diverse, were 25% more effective than advertisements categorized as “less progressive,” or more stereotypical. And ads categorized as the least progressive were twice as likely to achieve the lowest scores on effectiveness, according to Page.

He described this study and others that have shown similar findings as “instructive” in that they help build a case for other businesses that “things like progressive advertisements are not only ethically the right thing to do, they’re also good for business,” he said.

‘IT departments suck’

IT’s reputation is still dubious, at least according to the VC panelists at the conference. When the moderator asked what advice the VCs could provide startups on how to sell to corporations, Krishna Gupta from Romulus Capital didn’t mince words: “IT departments suck.” He described integration as a rate limiter for many companies.

Janet Bannister, partner at Real Ventures in Montreal, suggested startups fret less about selling against other startups and more about selling against incumbents. She said large companies might understand that a startup can solve a problem better than the technology they’re currently using, but see the startup’s future as uncertain. “Having a strong use case, other customers using the product and great investors that will speak on the company’s behalf” may help assuage a large company’s concerns, she said.

Say what?!?

“Humans are unique. We’re awesome. Let’s get beyond that point and look at the attributes that we need in an artificial intelligence system that would enable us to trust it with more and more functionality. I think it’s a continuum. Just like ethics is a continuum. Morality is a continuum. … And I think we need to invite our machines into that continuum, that struggle, that wrestle that we’re in.” — Babak Hodjat, founder and chief scientist, Sentient Technology

“It’s kind of a tough time to think about how we encourage people to trust AI. And that’s particularly true given that some of the biggest businesses that use AI, particularly in the social sharing space, are at the absolute center of a massive crisis of trust.” — Graham Page, executive vice president and head of global research solutions, Kantar Millward Brown

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Big Data

Factbox: How big is Bitcoin’s carbon footprint?




(Reuters) – Tesla boss Elon Musk’s sudden u-turn over accepting bitcoin to buy his electric vehicles has thrust the cryptocurrency’s energy usage into the headlights.

Some Tesla investors, along with environmentalists, have been increasingly critical about the way bitcoin is “mined” using vast amounts of electricity generated with fossil fuels.

Musk said on Wednesday he backed that concern, especially the use of “coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel”.

So how dirty is the virtual currency?


Unlike mainstream traditional currencies, bitcoin is virtual and not made from paper or plastic, or even metal. Bitcoin is virtual but power-hungry as it is created using high-powered computers around the globe.

At current rates, such bitcoin “mining” devours about the same amount of energy annually as the Netherlands did in 2019, data from the University of Cambridge and the International Energy Agency shows.

Some bitcoin proponents note that the existing financial system with its millions of employees and computers in air-conditioned offices uses large amounts of energy too.


The world’s biggest cryptocurrency, which was once a fringe asset class, has become increasingly mainstream as it is accepted by more major U.S. companies and financial firms.

Greater demand, and higher prices, lead to more miners competing to solve puzzles in the fastest time to win coin, using increasingly powerful computers that need more energy.

Bitcoin is created when high-powered computers compete against other machines to solve complex mathematical puzzles, an energy-intensive process that often relies on fossil fuels, particularly coal, the dirtiest of them all.


Bitcoin production is estimated to generate between 22 and 22.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, or between the levels produced by Jordan and Sri Lanka, a 2019 study in scientific journal Joule found.

There are growing attempts in the cryptocurrency industry to mitigate the environmental harm of mining and the entrance of big corporations into the crypto market could boost incentives to produce “green bitcoin” using renewable energy.

Some sustainability experts say that companies could buy carbon credits to compensate for the impact.

And blockchain analysis firms say that it is possible in theory to track the source of bitcoin, raising the possibility that a premium could be charged for green bitcoin. Climate change policies by governments around the world might also help.


Projects from Canada to Siberia are striving for ways to wean bitcoin mining away from fossil fuels, such as using hydropower, or at least to reduce its carbon footprint, and make the currency more palatable to mainstream investors.

Some are attempting to repurpose the heat generated by the mining to serve agriculture, heating and other needs, while others are using power generated by flare gas – a by-product from oil extraction usually burned off – for crypto mining.


The dominance of Chinese miners and lack of motivation to swap cheap fossil fuels for more expensive renewables means there are few quick fixes to bitcoin’s emissions problem, some industry players and academics warn.

Chinese miners account for about 70% of production, data from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance shows. They tend to use renewable energy – mostly hydropower – during the rainy summer months, but fossil fuels – primarily coal – for the rest of the year.

(Writing by Alexander Smith: editing by Carmel Crimmins)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Colonial Pipeline has cyber insurance policy – sources




LONDON (Reuters) – Colonial Pipeline has cyber insurance arranged by broker Aon, with Lloyd’s of London insurers AXA XL and Beazley among the underwriters, three sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Colonial Pipeline has begun to restart the nation’s largest fuel pipeline network after a ransomware attack shut the line, triggering fuel shortages and panic buying in the southeastern United States.

The cyberattack halted 2.5 million barrels per day of shipments of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel last Friday after the most disruptive cyberattack ever on U.S. energy infrastructure.

Insurance Insider reported the news late on Wednesday, saying the cover was for at least $15 million.

Cyber insurance typically covers ransom payments and insurers often provide staff to negotiate with the hackers, in addition to IT and public relations services.

Colonial Pipeline does not plan to pay the ransom, sources familiar with the company’s response told Reuters on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Carolyn Cohn; editing by David Evans)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Foreign IT firms must open offices in Russia under new draft law – lawmaker




MOSCOW (Reuters) – Foreign technology companies will be forced to open offices in Russia or face penalties such as advertising bans under draft legislation, a senior lawmaker said on Thursday, in a fresh move by Moscow to exert greater control over Big Tech.

Russia is keen to strengthen control of the internet and reduce its dependence on foreign companies and countries. It has imposed a punitive slowdown on social network Twitter over its failure to delete content Moscow says is illegal.

Apple, Facebook, TikTok and Alphabet’s Google are among other companies to have come under fire from Russian authorities.

The head of the information policy and IT committee at the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, said the draft legislation would be submitted as soon as possible to combat what he described as IT giants abusing their monopoly positions and distributing content banned in Russia.

“Our draft law would oblige owners of large information resources with a daily audience in Russia of at least 500,000 people to open official offices, which would fully represent their interests and answer for their activities,” Alexander Khinshtein wrote on his Telegram channel.

Failure to do so could lead to companies being banned from advertising their services or hosting advertisements on their platforms. They could also be prohibited from collecting payments or personal data.

Officials say a package of more than 60 support measures is being discussed in government.

“It is important that all these measures in no way infringe the interests of Russian users, do not violate their ability to work with the resource, but create economic incentives for IT giants to observe our legislation,” said Khinshtein.

A law came into force in April obliging smart devices to offer Russian software upon activation.

(Reporting by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Gareth Jones)

Image Credit: Reuters

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Optimal Dynamics nabs $22M for AI-powered freight logistics




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Optimal Dynamics, a New York-based startup applying AI to shipping logistics, today announced that it closed a $18.4 million round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Optimal Dynamics says that the funds will be used to more than triple its 25-person team and support engineering efforts, as well as bolster sales and marketing departments.

Last-mile delivery logistics tends to be the most expensive and time-consuming part of the shipping process. According to one estimate, last-mile accounts for 53% of total shipping costs and 41% of total supply chain costs. With the rise of ecommerce in the U.S., retail providers are increasingly focusing on fulfilment and distribution at the lowest cost. Particularly in the construction industry, the pandemic continues to disrupt wholesalers — a 2020 Statista survey found that 73% of buyers and users of freight transportation and logistics services experienced an impact on their operations.

Founded in 2016, Optimal Dynamics offers a platform that taps AI to generate shipment plans likely to be profitable — and on time. The fruit of nearly 40 years of R&D at Princeton, the company’s product generates simulations for freight transportation, enabling logistics companies to answer questions about what equipment they should buy, how many drivers they need, daily dispatching, load acceptance, and more.

Simulating logistics

Roughly 80% of all cargo in the U.S. is transported by the 7.1 million people who drive flatbed trailers, dry vans, and other heavy lifters for the country’s 1.3 million trucking companies. The trucking industry generates $726 billion in revenue annually and is forecast to grow 75% by 2026. Even before the pandemic, last-mile delivery was fast becoming the most profitable part of the supply chain, with research firm Capgemini pegging its share of the pie at 41%.

Optimal Dynamics’ platform can perform strategic, tactical, and real-time freight planning, forecasting shipment events as far as two weeks in advance. CEO Daniel Powell — who cofounded the company with his father, Warren Princeton, a professor of operations research and financial engineering — says that the underlying technology was deployed, tested, and iterated with trucking companies, railroads, and energy companies, along with projects in health, ecommerce, finance, and materials science.

“Use of something called ‘high-dimensional AI’ allows us to take in exponentially greater detail while planning under uncertainty. We also leverage clever methods that allow us to deploy robust AI systems even when we have very little training data, a common issue in the logistics industry,” Powell told VentureBeat via email. “The results are … a dramatic increase in companies’ abilities to plan into the future.”

The global logistics market was worth $10.32 billion in 2017 and is estimated to grow to $12.68 billion USD by 2023, according to Research and Markets. Optimal Dynamics competes with Uber, which offers a logistics service called Uber Freight. San Francisco-based startup KeepTruckin recently secured $149 million to further develop its shipment marketplace. Next Trucking closed a $97 million investment. And Convoy raised $400 million at a $2.75 billion valuation to make freight trucking more efficient.

But 25-employee Optimal Dynamics investor Mike Droesch, a partner at BVP, says that demand remains strong for the company’s products. “Logistics operators need to consider a staggering number of variables, making this an ideal application for a software-as-a-service product that can help operators make more informed decisions by leveraging Optimal Dynamics industry leading technology. We were really impressed with the combination of their deep technology and the commercial impact that Optimal Dynamics is already delivering to their customers,” he said in a statement.

With the latest funding round, a series A, Optimal Dynamics has raised over $22 million to date. Beyond Bessemer, Fusion Fund, The Westly Group, TenOneTen Ventures, Embark Ventures, FitzGate Ventures, and John Larkin and John Hess also contributed .


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