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Microsoft and corporate activism

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BOSTON — Artificial intelligence needs to eat, breathe and sleep data to be effective. By that measure, the company…

— or country — with the most data should emerge victorious. But Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, said the idea that data accumulators will rule the world and the rest of us will be powerless is a pessimistic take on what’s to come.

He prefers optimism. Indeed, Smith said there are ways to keep, say, China from becoming a global data dictator. His recommendation: Create “a global standard for ethical principles and for the protection of things like privacy so that the price for global admission is adherence to a global standard.”

Such a standard could create a classic data-silo problem for countries that don’t comply. For example, China may have the world’s largest population, but if it can’t access Europe’s data or the United States’ data, it will struggle to uncover patterns on a global, rather than national, scale.

That was one of the points Smith made at HUBweek, an innovation festival in Boston. In a fireside chat with Adi Ignatius, editor in chief of Harvard Business Review, Smith made it clear that Microsoft is participating in a new kind of corporate activism that targets broad societal issues — and it’s using this newly public corporate conscience as an advocacy and marketing tool.

For example, in December, Microsoft publicly supported a giving women and men the right to take a sexual harassment claim to court rather than keep the complaint in arbitration. When North Carolina a that restricted LGBT rights, Microsoft lent its voice to the opposition. More recently, the company launched the Defending Democracy Program, which is aimed at protecting campaigns from hacking, increasing political advertising transparency and defending against disinformation.

The political thread in the examples Smith provided is hardly accidental: Customers are increasingly turning to companies to take on issues they care about because of the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., Smith argued.

“We are living in a time when there are historically low levels of trust in government,” he said. “And so, whereas in the past, people would say, ‘I care about this. I’m going to go to government.’ They are less inclined to do that.”

But jumping into corporate activism and promoting a company’s moral compass can also create wrinkles. Smith said, given the gridlock in Washington, customers are beginning to ask Microsoft to help regulate the very technology it’s developing. One HUBweek attendee raised a question that has become common at tech events: Can government officials craft policy that effectively keeps up with the rapid pace of change in the tech industry? 

Smith shot down the idea, saying that any technology company’s involvement in regulation is inappropriate and restricts progress. “I don’t think it’s viable to ask tech to slow down,” he said. “It is not only appropriate, but it is right to ask government to move faster. And it’s incumbent on those of us in the technology sector to do what we can to share information so that governments can move faster.”

Plus, he said, “it’s important to remember that, in this country and in many others, people elect those who make the laws. People do not elect companies.”

‘Moneyball’ for movies

Legendary Entertainment is using analytics to develop films. Matt Marolda, chief analytics officer for the media company, referred to this as “Moneyball for movies,” referencing the story of how data helped transform a losing baseball team.

The use of data to develop movie products isn’t , but in the past, much of the data was collected through analog methods. These days, the data that Marolda’s applied analytics team uses for analysis comes from a variety of sources — from one-on-one conversations with viewers to digital data such as search queries and Twitter conversations.

The tried-and-true method of testing a film before a live audience is also used — but with a twist. While Marolda’s team tries “to be as unintrusive as possible” during the testing process, it uses iPads to capture facial expressions and wristbands to collect heart rate and other “various signals,” he said. That kind of data is used to determine what’s working and what’s not.

“We try and identify those moments where people are confused, people are rolling their eyes, where they’re really engaged,” Marolda said.

The data can also help pin down much bigger problems such as whether the chemistry between the two leads is believable. Marolda said filmmakers often have a gut answer to human chemistry questions like the latter, but the data can provide solid evidence.

“With that kind of evidence, entire storylines are removed from movies, reshoots might happen to redirect the plot,” he said. “Those indicators are a great way to understand what the opportunities are for improvement.”

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Source: https://searchcio.techtarget.com/news/252450811/Microsoft-and-corporate-activism

Big Data

How Tech is Driving Sustainability in the Seafood Industry

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As our appetite for seafood increases, marine ecological degradation follows. In recent decades, the demand for marine food sources rose. Fisheries attempt to meet societal needs by overfishing, harming the natural ecology.

Eco-friendly engineers came to the rescue, developing various sustainable fishing devices. They decrease the environmental interference of seafood extraction and help fisheries thrive. As more individuals adopt these practices, we will restore the aquatic ecosystem.

Aquaculture

Aquaculture is a fishing methodsociety used since 500 BC, which recently came back into the light. Fish farming sustains society’s nutrition demands while reducing the harms of overfishing. Major consumption species include salmon, tilapia and catfish, which humans can generate through aquaculture.

Many fish farmers usehydroponics to improve the sustainability of their production. In condensed fish populations, waste can contaminate the water and affect native species. Fishers grow aquatic vegetation in the region to filter toxic elements and preserve the environment’s natural composition.

Hydroponics combined with green technology can provide sustainable seafood to the global society. Light-emitting nets, smart devices, origin detection technology and geolocating gadgets may help fishers meet eco-consumers’ demands.

Light Emitting Nets

A company in the U.K. developed light-emitting devices, helping reduce bycatch. Today, one out of ten fish caught are unsuitable for the market. Fishers are unable to sell endangered and small fish, leading to 16 million tons of annual waste.

They also waste 20% of space on ships, increasing environmental, ecological and economic costs. As fishers continue to practice wasteful collection methods, the marine ecosystem suffers. Environmental scientists developed a solution to the sustainable seafood problem.

They developed the Pisces light kit, which attaches to fishing gear. The devices fasten onto fishing nets to attract a target catch and repel bycatch, eliminating waste. Pisces uses LED lights, increasing the system’s energy efficiency.

LEDlights use 75% less electricity than conventional light bulbs. They also last 25 times longer, generating less waste over time.

Smart Seafood

Purchasing seafood thatfinancially supports sustainable fishing is smart. Sourcing seafood with artificial intelligence (AI) is downright futuristic.

The SMARTFISH H2020 technology enhances sustainable fishing, providing fishers with the resources necessary to protect the marine ecosystem. Environmental engineers at the companyutilize machine vision technology, data procession, visibility devices, machine learning methods, AI, hydroacoustic systems and more, making eco-conscious fishing possible.

Their devices locate sea beds, ensuring fishing equipment only penetrates regions with sufficiently abundant target species. They also have a size and species recognition system. The instrument assesses the length, weight and type of fish below the boat, maximizing catch efficiency and decreasing waste.

Origin Detection Technology

IBM recently teamed up with the Norwegian Seafood Association, Sjømatbedriftene, generating blockchain technology for fishers. The device allows industry members totrack supply chain data, ensuring the safety and sustainability of seafood. Origin detection technology increases transparency in the industry, creating a single version of the truth.

Fishers install blockchain technology on their vessels, recording the time, location, temperature and more, regarding their catch. Industry members can then access this information to ensure accurate labeling on store-sold seafood. Customers may also gain access to this information in the future.

Eco-consumers demand more documentation for the goods and services they consume. In coming years, customers can access the blockchain information in the store. They will see when fishers caught the seafood, where it is from, its consumed feed and processing facility’s sustainability.

Geolocating Devices

Similar to IBM’s technology, innovators at pelagic developed geo-tracking boat devices. Nearlyhalf of the seafood supply derives from small-scale fishing boats. It is challenging to regulate small vessels on conventional identification systems, allowing them to go unregulated.

Pelagic developed geolocating boat devices to track smaller fishers’ practices. Large seafood distributors now require all small vessels to install the data collection system, showing the company where and when they catch seafood. It optimizes the sustainability of the overall business, restricting non-sustainably sourced purchases.

Demand
Sustainable Seafood

Eco-consumers make up the most extensive customer base in America. For fisheries to remain competitive in the industry, they must adopt green fishing technology and sustainable practices. When consumers demand sustainable seafood and fishers eliminate ecologically degrading procedures, we can restore the marine ecosystem. 

Image Credit: Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/how-tech-driving-sustainability-seafood-industry/14643

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Factbox: How big is Bitcoin’s carbon footprint?

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(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?

POWER HUNGRY

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.

COAL CONNECTION

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.

GREEN BITCOIN?

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.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

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.

CHINA CRISIS

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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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/factbox-how-big-bitcoins-carbon-footprint/14639

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Colonial Pipeline has cyber insurance policy – sources

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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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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/colonial-pipeline-cyber-insurance-policy-sources/14638

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

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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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Source: https://datafloq.com/read/foreign-it-firms-must-open-offices-russia-new-draft-law-lawmaker/14637

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