'Learn to Write:' AI Advancements Mean Code Will Be Written in Natural English

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:17

AI-powered chatbot ChatGPT is, according to its boosters, poised to disrupt or even make obsolete everything writerly—from the college essay to legal arguments. But large language models are already transforming another human pursuit: writing code. 

Coding, essentially the process of humans communicating with computers, didn’t always refer to using programming languages like Python and Javascript to develop an application. During the early days of computer programming, before keyboards were invented, coding meant flipping switches. Then, coding meant punching digits into cards. As high-level coding languages were introduced, beginning with C in 1972, coding started to become not only more efficient but also closer and closer to our natural human language. Along the way, coding became a highly-valued, and high-paying, skill, to the point that coders have long told laid-off writers, "Learn to code."

Now, with the development of large language models such as ChatGPT, many computer scientists see a near future in which everyone will be able to code simply by using natural language. And in a climate of mass layoff and austerity, the technology is already being looked at as a way to juice more from workers. The evolution in coding is happening so quickly that maybe the advice should be flipped. Perhaps some people working in software development should be told: "Learn to write."

While many people have been worried about ChatGPT’s English language-writing capabilities being able to replace writers and students, another important feature of the AI model is its ability to translate natural language into code, as well as auto-complete, debug, and suggest code. In August 2021, OpenAI released Codex as a private beta tool that can translate natural language commands to code. According to OpenAI, Codex understands natural language because it is a descendant of GPT-3 and is, in part, trained on the same data as the chatbot. 

“The release of OpenAI Codex, a new Al system that translates natural language to code, marks the beginning of a shift in how computer software is written,” wrote OpenAI co-founder and CTO Greg Brockman and CEO of Code.org Hadi Partovi in an article on TechCrunch. This article, titled “No-code is code” brought attention to a growing movement in computer science called “no-code,” in which people can develop software without technical knowledge of coding languages, no computer science degree required. 

Amjad Masad, the CEO of Replit, an online platform for collaborative coding, wrote in a 2020 blog post that the advent of AI-powered coding tools is going to transform programming, making it easier to learn and more efficient. 

“At some point—probably not in the near future—the word ‘coding’ will disappear from our lexicon because programming will stop requiring code and instead be about the pure act of solving problems using computers making it accessible to more and more people,” Masad wrote. 

“We're only scratching the surface of what's possible in this new technology. I think ChatGPT brings it to another level,” Masad told Motherboard in an interview. “We're now at the start of another big jump in developer productivity. I think it's going to be anywhere between 10x to 100x improvement in productivity.”

Masad said that having knowledge of coding will still be a good skill to have, as AI will simply help expedite programming processes and break down some of the barriers to access to computer science. “There really aren't enough programmers in the world, they're very expensive. The more efficiency we have in programming, the more software we're able to create. An AI assistant can help you debug your code, can help you make it better, and refactor it, and that will just make every aspect of the software development lifecycle better. On the accessibility side of things, I think it will make software more accessible for people.”

The advent of "no-code" coding using AI isn't all sunshine and roses, however. Already, it's running into the same ethical problems as image generation models trained on people's art without consent, and it has potentially troubling implications for workers who code. After all, technology that boosts workers' productivity has historically come hand-in-hand with a reduction in the total number of workers a company employs.

Currently, Microsoft’s GitHub has its own AI auto-completion coding tool called CoPilot, which launched in June and suggests code to users in real time. However, CoPilot, which is powered by Codex, is facing a class-action lawsuit from GitHub programmers who claim that Codex used their code without proper licenses. 

Tech companies have recently laid off masses of workers—Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon have collectively laid off hundreds of thousands of their employees in the last few months. It's not clear that this had much to do with AI replacing coders, but companies are already hoping AI can allow workers to do more with less.  

Google has already implemented AI for its internal developers, in which 10,000 Google software developers used a code completion language model, in their programming tasks. According to a blog by CEO Sundar Pichai, AI reduced “coding iteration time for these developers by 6%.”

Many billionaire investors are putting pressure on companies like Google to reduce employee headcounts and be more stringent on budget as stock prices decrease. Even if AI is not leading the charge to layoffs, it's part of an emerging framework of marginally increased productivity at a time of austerity.    

Masad told Motherboard that he does expect to see one part of software engineering disappear: back-end and full-stack engineering, or people who build the structure of applications and software. “You'll see the product and the front-end engineer be able to do a lot of the work that maybe the back-end or full-stack engineer was doing in the past. I think that'll create pressure from both sides, which could have an impact on the employability of those engineers in the middle, and they're gonna have to specialize. Or they're gonna have to either go and build products or become low-level platform engineers.” 

With the inclusion of AI in coding, Masad said that the value of software engineers will be more about the ability to build something new and to supervise and manage the code, rather than just write it. 

“While the AI could support you in some way, it would not be able to write the entire program in itself. So I think the novelty of the code that you're going to create will dictate the AI’s effects on your job,” he said. 

Masad is hopeful about the future of AI-generated coding processes. "It's important to understand that despite the layoffs and everything there are still a lot of unfilled software roles in the world today," he said, adding that he thinks Silicon Valley has been "hoarding" talented workers.

Either way, coding is soon probably going to look different than it does today, or a year ago, just like coding in C++ is different from coding using assembly language. That will have effects on the cohort of people who code for a living—essentially, talking to computers—when the computers start talking back. 

Categories: Tech News

Amazon warehouse workers 'make history' with first official UK strike

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:15
GMB union demands 45% pay rise as members struggle with cost of living

Brits have never been afraid to strike, and the wave of industrial action hitting various sectors over the crushing cost of living has found its way over to Amazon for the first time in the UK.…

Categories: Tech News

CYBER: The Nextdoor Poster to Political Activist Pipeline

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:00

We've all heard about how Facebook is destroying democracy. How Twitter enables the loudest, dumbest voices to have the most influence. How Instagram has ruined an entire generation's self esteem. But what if there is a social media network even more important than those?

Every day, people are gathering online in this space to organize powerful political movements. They’re sharing details of what’s going on, locally, getting organized, and fighting each other in an online cage match of American politics.

It’s time to talk about Nextdoor.

On today’s episode of Cyber, Motherboard Senior Writer Aaron Gordon comes on to talk about the wild world of Nextdoor.

Stories discussed in this episode:

How Nextdoor Put Neighbors In a Housing Policy 'Cage Match'

We’re recording CYBER live on Twitch and YouTube. Watch live during the week. Follow us there to get alerts when we go live. We take questions from the audience and yours might just end up on the show.

Subscribe to CYBER on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Categories: Tech News

Even Reality TV Hosts Are Being Replaced By Robots

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:00

MILF Manor is a reality TV show made to be dissected on the internet. Everything, from its ripped-from-30-Rock title to the Oedipal set-up of mothers and their sons thrown into the same “dating pool,” is so patently outrageous that it boomerangs back into normalcy—of course these mothers need to participate in a blindfolded contest to identify their sons by their abs alone. But MILF Manor’s most understated quirk is the one that sticks out to me: There’s no tanned, vaguely handsome man with veneers and a dress shirt directing the festivities. Instead, contestants receive alerts and directions via text, on iPhones in magenta cases that seem to be provided by the producers. Like more and more reality TV competition shows, there’s no actual host. 

By my estimation, Netflix’s The Circle kicked the trend off in 2020. Its contestants, who compete to create the most lovable social media presence in physical isolation, receive prompts and challenges from a big-screen TV in their living quarters. Pressure Cooker, a more recent offering from the streaming giant, is a cooking competition show where the host is replaced by a kitchen ticket printer: Competitions receive challenge instructions and the results of game-ending votes in the same way chefs take orders from their diners. The Button, a YouTube speed dating series by the production company Cut, goes a step further with the introduction of a large talking button that cracks jokes and prompts daters to ask each other cringe-worthy questions until one of them presses it, ending the date and sending in another option.

Why axe the role of host when it’s been a staple of the formula for so long? It could be a sign of the recession. Reality TV competition shows are famously among the cheapest television to produce, but if I’ve learned anything about business, it’s that executives have never met a corner they’re not dying to cut. It could also be that the role of reality TV host is not attracting the same iconic cultural figures it once was, when the subgenre exploded in popularity in the early 2000s. Gone are the days when marquee names like Tyra Banks, Mario Lopez, and—I hate to say it—Donald Trump graced our small screens to torture and judge people fighting for a big lump sum of money or some other potentially career-making prize. Even Dave Navarro is only doing Ink Master on a guest-host basis. Jeff Probst: Please, for the love of God, be careful!

At the core, though, I believe there’s something more insidious at play: Robots are once again stealing jobs from red-blooded human workers. Only this time, instead of factory linemen or fast food cashiers, these laborers are C-List comedians and guys who are incredibly symmetrical but not quite hot. (Again, Jeff Probst, I am not talking about you!) Sure, I know machine intelligence doesn’t experience emotion—yet!—and I know that all of these robo-hosts are likely operated by producers—for now! But isn’t toying with people in a high-stress, high-stakes situation, the exact job description of a reality competition host, the absolute dream gig for a robot? Seems a little too perfect.

Human TV hosts can definitely be annoying—thinking of you, guy from Is It Cake?—but their presence can also bring warmth to competition shows in ways that makes the whole spectacle feel a smidge less dystopian. Their absence gives each series a bleak, forlorn quality. It accentuates the isolation of the contestants and leaves them hanging around, waiting for the right notification like an anxious lover. And when they arrive, these digital missives lack the pizzazz of the Tyra Mail from America’s Next Top Model. They’re short, to the point, and devoid of voice, except for the Button, which has a kind of impish quality that makes me confident it’s the work of a few funny people with a microphone sitting just off-screen. 

Experts already predict that AI and machine learning could replace people working as couriers, investment analysts, and customer service representatives. Adding reality competition show hosts to that list means the creep into our cultural landscape has already started, which is a distinctly scary thought, in my book. Our flesh is weak, our MILFs are fragile, and we are so, so vulnerable to the clinical calculations of our machine overlords—uh, I mean, hosts. 

Categories: Tech News

'My Turn' Returns to Tarkovsky's Oeuvre with 'Nostalghia'

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:00

Waypoint is going back to the fridge for more olive [Editor's Note: I don’t get this, is this one of your damned memes? - RZ], and in this case olives are minutes of Andrei Tarkovsky movies! Ren's choice is Nostalghia, which has been called one of Tarkovsky's most personal films. Join us as we discuss time, memory, and the strange physics of carrying a lit candle across bodies of water.

Get episodes of My Turn a week early and ad free by subscribing to Waypoint+. You’ll also enjoy weekly newsletters, ad free Waypoint Radio episodes, and more streams for all!

Categories: Tech News

Yes, There’s a Level of Violence That’s Too Far Even For ‘Dead Space’

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 06:00

Space horror fans are feasting right now, between the recent release of The Callisto Protocol and the upcoming Dead Space remake. If you like blowing bloody chunks off weird alien creatures in the far off corners of the universe, the past few months have been a delight.

The difference between those two games is that while one of them very much feels like an homage to Dead Space, and even features developers who worked on those original games, it’s coming out within months of a literal re-interpretation of the very game it’s inspired by. 

Some video game updates are little more than a coat of paint, but in this case, EA Motive has gone far beyond frame rate and aesthetic. In their words, this take on Dead Space isn’t meant to contradict what’s come before—it’s still the bones of the original Dead Space. But it also hasn’t stopped them from, say, giving Isaac Clarke a voice (a feature that came later in the series), attempting to add depth to its characters with new dialogue and voice acting, or a horrifying-sounding “peeling” system that allows players to rip apart the game’s enemies.

Horror in 2023 is a lot different from horror than 2008, when Dead Space was released. Twitch, where the genre would later thrive through live streaming, didn’t launch until 2011. 

To learn more about how the team approached this, I had a chance to speak with Motive Studio realization director Joel MacMillan and senior writer Jo Berry, who worked at BioWare for many years before making the jump to Star Wars and horror at EA Motive, about their approach to the horror classic, and what level of violence is even too much for Dead Space.

What follows is an edited, condensed transcript of our longer conversation about horror and Dead Space. The full exchange can be heard on this Friday’s episode of Waypoint Radio.

Waypoint: You both have spent a lot of time working at BioWare, and specifically working on RPGs. Horror is something completely different. What is it like to go from such a massive shift to a different type of game like Dead Space

Joe: It's a good question. I started off in Mass Effect working on the Mass Effect franchise and then making that transition to Motive. We got our hands on a couple of Star Wars titles and now we're going into Dead Space. We were reflecting on this recently. Those are all considered sci-fi pieces. Those are all sci-fi franchises. But they couldn't be more different in terms of the flavor of sci-fi between all of them. You have Mass Effect, which is all about the clean, sleek, sophisticated kind of sci-fi. Star Wars, that's more of the cowboy fantasy sci-fi. And now you have Dead Space, which is suspense thriller, survival horror—that kind of thing. It's been fun getting to taste each of those flavors over the course of those franchises. For me, probably next to sci fi, horror is my next favorite genre. I think horror is a very healthy genre, and we're starting to see quite a renaissance in that genre now with streaming services and indie games and films. 

But the one thing I do like about horror is that when done effectively, you get a good release from it—a better release than, say, sci fi or drama and that kind of thing. There's a really cathartic release you get when horror is executed properly. That's a great feeling, and it's a healthy thing for us to experience. Having gone through a world pandemic recently, it's a good time for horror, where people can go through and have that cathartic experience and not be afraid to be scared safely now. It's a safe scare for folks at home in the comfort of their own couches and rooms and that kind of thing. And so for all those reasons, I really do appreciate the genre. 

Jo: And just thinking about what you were saying about going from RPGs to horror. Especially BioWare RPGs, they're so character driven. They're really about people and hard decisions and choices and things like that. So one of the advantages of having worked on that is when you go to horror, you have to care about the people involved or you have to have investment in them in their situation. So obviously, it's not 1 to 1, but you can certainly bring some of those elements over, and then you're able to really put people in the shoes of someone who's having the worst day of their life.

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Waypoint: Horror, at its best, has characters that you're invested in and it elevates everything else that's going around it. That is, frankly, as someone that's watched too much of the genre, what happens. A lot of times it's the creativeness of a kill or an ingenious premise, and the characters are more or less about how far can we get along until that premise plays out. 

Jo: Well, I mean, one of my favorite horror films is The Thing. And that film does not work without characters. You know what I mean? The paranoia and the suspense and everything. You get to know the characters very quickly, and they're not cliches. They all feel grounded. Even the quick time you spend with them at the beginning, you get to know everybody. You understand who McCready is, who Copper is, who Palmer is, this sort of thing. And then it's this slow burn, but it's all leading out from those characters. When Garry says, "I've known Bennings for 10 years, this can't be happening,” you really feel for him." That investment really pays off throughout the whole film, because so much of that film is about paranoia and interacting with other characters. 

Joe: It's a good point. The characters are really the window that you experience the horror through, so it's important that you can relate to them. It's the same thing. Jo, you mentioned The Thing and one of our other source materials was Alien. Alien's the same thing, it's an extremely exotic environment. You're in space. It couldn't be more exotic. You're trapped in a spaceship in space with an alien creature chasing you. It was incredibly important for us to connect and relate to the characters in order for us to project ourselves into that world. Otherwise, it would have just been too exotic and too distant, too hard to put ourselves into.

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Waypoint: As a hardcore Prometheus fan, I have to know—and maybe this is going to ruin the conversation—what do you make of Prometheus

Joe: I think… [pause, laughs]

Waypoint: Oh no! I already know the answer!

Joe: [laughs] We need a whole other interview for this one. But I think there were elements of Prometheus [I liked]. I liked what Ridley Scott was trying to do. 

Waypoint: There is a lot of death in Dead Space and those deaths don't just appear out of nowhere, someone has to come up with them. When you're prompted with, "hey, like we need some death scene here," what are those creative meetings like? 

Jo: There were one or two death scenes that we wanted to take to a different place. I'm trying to think of a way to talk about them without spoiling. That's the tricky one. I can talk about one obliquely. This is new. It's a new death scene, a very revised one. 

Originally you saw [it] standing on a gantry looking down. We had a conversation about it, about how this is actually going to be staged and all this. I was talking to Roman [Campos-Oriola, creative director] about it, and he's like, “this isn't really gory enough for Dead Space.” I was like, "cool, I will help you with that, because I'm always excited to get really twisted about it." So we were like, "okay, well, if we want it to be gory, first of all, we have to be closer,” so then it started adjusting the level design. We're going to have to get the character right up close, [so] we're going to have it staged this way and do it this way. And then it was looking at the tools that were involved in the scene, and in that death, we actually took a bit of inspiration from other horror games, as well. 

There was a particular piece of imagery that was used and that actually worked really well with the setup and the characters and…the mechanism of death. [laughs] It developed from there. It starts in an image and then, because it's games, you have to be like, "okay, how practically can we do this? Can we do it with VFX? Is the level design going to support it? What if a player just tries to shoot the other person in the head?" That's always a problem! The "player is armed and can constantly shoot someone in the head" is always an issue. 

Joe: I think all of the death scenes that we've revisited are all pretty messy. We've added a little bit more gore to them, but I think, going back to what Jo was saying, I think we've enhanced the emotional connection through those death scenes. Whomever is dying there, their character character's been built up a little bit more so that when the death happens, it resonates a little bit longer or stronger. But we've also physically positioned them and staged them so that you're a front row seat to a lot of them. Not all of them. I think that allows you to connect a little bit better with what they're going through.

“If you watch someone getting their legs pulverized and ripped off, at a certain point you can't visualize that. But if you're looking at somebody getting a toothpick under their fingernails, it will make you wince.”

Waypoint: What is the line on Dead Space where the violence is too far? 

Jo: Well, this is a game that we specifically developed a peeling system for our enemies. The line's pretty good. [laughs] Yeah. I think there's a level of gratuity past which a death starts being funny. You disconnect, right? If you watch someone getting their legs pulverized and ripped off, at a certain point you can't visualize that. But if you're looking at somebody getting a toothpick under their fingernails, it will make you wince.

Waypoint: Don't like it. 

Jo: No. [laughs] I think it's definitely keeping that level of almost relatability. "God, that would really hurt." But if you go too far, like I said, it becomes cartoony. I think it's just leaning into the groundedness of Dead Space. We joke that the weapons that you use, you're basically committing industrial accidents. You can understand how much damage an industrial accident would do and can do as opposed to really going overboard and something you could do in animation. It's making sure that it always feels relatable in a way.

Joe: Yeah. It's also a matter of being judicious with where we put it. On our human character deaths, we pull back a little bit from the gore--again, like Jo was saying, to make it a little bit more relatable, less cartoony. But on creatures and monsters and necromorphs and that kind of thing, we had a little bit more freedom to to embellish the gore. We have the peeling system where you could blow chunks off of the enemies all the way down to the bone, and that's fun and that's part of the gameplay experience. But that level of gore is a little bit more appropriate for those monsters. It doesn't become cheesy or it doesn't it doesn't pull you out of the experience when it's on the enemy monsters. 

We found early on in the project that a lot of our meetings where we'd be sharing visual material and references and that kind of thing included a lot of very disturbing images and pictures. I remember at the start of the project, we were putting together the whole visual brief for what that dismemberment and peeling feature would be. As I was putting that together, I was looking at images from car accidents and certain injuries and that kind of thing, and at the end of the day, your mind's in a very dark place because that's real. I made a very concerted effort to only draw imagery from films and TV and series and that kind of thing, because there’s plenty of reference [material] from those. But it's a little bit easier to not get overly connected and feel subjected to some of the imagery. 

But as a result, when we would go into meetings and have to share that kind of visual reference, we would always have to put a bit of a disclaimer at the front saying, "look, graphic imagery in this in this presentation, for those of you that are sensitive to that, we'll give you advance warning not to look at the slide or blank out the slide [or] close your eyes." 

Jo: Yeah, we do that on Slack, as well. If it's like, "here's an asset that we're going to show" and it's particularly graphic, just put a note on it being like "hey, if you're not cool with this, maybe you don't need to click on this." 

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).

Categories: Tech News

Google institutional investor calls for wider cuts: 30k jobs

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 05:29
TCI Fund run by billionaire John Hohn also wants ad biz to slash salaries

The billionaire hedge fund manager that runs a major Google investor isn't satisfied with the record 12,000 redundancies the US tech giant is making, and wants to see thousands more forced out of the organization.…

Categories: Tech News

63-Year-Old Japanese Mom Took Photos of Women in Bathhouses to ‘Calm Down’ Her Son

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 05:11

A Japanese mother was rearrested on Thursday under suspicion of taking illegal photos of naked women at public bathhouses. The images were reportedly for her 37-year-old adult son, who had requested she photograph the women over a period of at least four months, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported. 

Satomi Seki, 63, told police that her son, Akinori, had been a recluse for about 20 years, rarely leaving the house they both lived in together. She added that in order to “calm down” her son, she snuck in small cameras inside changing rooms and bathhouses to take photos of the naked women. 

Police were first alerted to Satomi’s suspected crimes on Dec. 30, when the staff at a bathing facility in Aichi, central Japan, saw her sneak two cameras into a plastic toiletry basket. When she tried to walk into the changing room, the staff seized her on the spot. 

Upon further investigation, police learned that her son conspired with her to take the photos. Authorities subsequently arrested him on Jan. 4 and finally rearrested the pair again on Thursday. Prosecutors will often rearrest suspects to evade Japan’s maximum pre-charge custody period of 23 days. 

Based on the seized camera footage, police determined that the two have been taking illicit photographs and videos since August, doing so on over 20 occasions.

Satomi and Akinori have been arrested on charges of voyeuristic photography and filming. If found guilty of repeated offenses, they could be punished with a two year prison sentence or a fine of up to $7,673. They also face charges of trespassing, a crime punishable by no more than three years in prison, or a maximum fine of 100,000 yen (about $767). 

According to government data, the number of arrests for voyeurism and illicit filming crimes in Japan has more than doubled in the last decade. In 2021, arrests for these crimes went up 20 percent from the previous year to 5,019, a record high. 

In an attempt to curb these crimes, police in Kyoto prefecture have been releasing ads on YouTube and other streaming platforms urging people to stop upskirting. In neighboring Osaka prefecture, where illicit photography crimes have more than tripled in the last decade, plain-clothed officers have been deployed to increase patrolling in busy areas like train stations. 

But these efforts are too weak, according to Chiharu Yamauchi, head of the nonprofit Voyeurism Crime Prevention Volunteer Wc. Her group patrols crowded areas to call out perpetrators, as well as identifies hidden cameras tucked into bathrooms and other public facilities. 

“Making posters encouraging victims of voyeurism to reach out to the police is important,” Yamauchi told VICE World News. “But we also need ways to prevent the actual crimes, not just what to do once a person becomes a victim, because at that point it’s already too late.” 

She attributed the rise of voyeurism cases to how ubiquitous smartphones have become, adding that today, anyone has the technology to take illicit photographs. In this specific case, she said, it’s not just cellphones—perpetrators can also get their hands on small devices like spycams. 

Yamauchi said public education on the issue and outreach to perpetrators are important ways to curb the problem. “But bystanders should also learn to step in—we have to create a culture where people look out for each other,” she said. 

Satomi admitted to all charges, but said she was pressured by her son. Akinori denies conspiring with her on all occasions. Asked about his own motives, he didn’t hide his intentions from the police.

“When I learned the photos could be sold on the internet, I thought I’d try to sell them,” NHK reported Akinori stating. According to police, the photos have not been sold. 

Follow Hanako Montgomery on Twitter and Instagram.

Categories: Tech News

Researchers look a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face

ARS Technica - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 04:30
Researchers look a dinosaur in its remarkably preserved face

Enlarge (credit: Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology)

Borealopelta mitchelli found its way back into the sunlight in 2017, millions of years after it had died. This armored dinosaur is so magnificently preserved that we can see what it looked like in life. Almost the entire animal—the skin, the armor that coats its skin, the spikes along its side, most of its body and feet, even its face—survived fossilization. It is, according to Dr. Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, a one-in-a-billion find.

Beyond its remarkable preservation, this dinosaur is an important key to understanding aspects of Early Cretaceous ecology, and it shows how this species may have lived within its environment. Since its remains were discovered, scientists have studied its anatomy, its armor, and even what it ate in its last days, uncovering new and unexpected insight into an animal that went extinct approximately 100 million years ago.

Down by the sea

Borealopelta is a nodosaur, a type of four-legged ankylosaur with a straight tail rather than a tail club. Its finding in 2011 in an ancient marine environment was a surprise, as the animal was terrestrial.

Read 45 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Categories: Tech News

NASA and DARPA team up to go nuclear in hopes of putting boots on Mars

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 04:25
Fission reactor rocket should get them going quite fast

US research agencies NASA and DARPA are teaming up to create a nuclear thermal rocket engine in hopes the tech will one day carry crewed missions to Mars.…

Categories: Tech News

The MyPillow Guy’s Fake Campaign For RNC Chair Is a Real Disaster

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 04:00

Mike Lindell is running for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. But no one involved in the RNC, which is gathering for its winter meetings in California this week, seems to know why—or who’s backing him.

Lindell, a close ally of former President Donald Trump and a lead booster of Trump’s 2020 election lies, is one of three candidates vying for the chairmanship. The MyPillow CEO and election conspiracy theorist has been publicly endorsed by exactly one of the committee’s 168 voting members. And many of the RNC’s voting members are rolling their eyes at his quixotic bid to take over the party and force it to put his obsession with supposed election fraud front-and-center, just months after candidates he backed cost them winnable races across the country.

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told VICE News that Lindell was running a “pseudo-campaign” that didn’t amount to more than some cookie-cutter form emails from fringe activists.

He said that illustrated how bad a job Lindell would do as RNC chairman if he won at the core part of the job: winning elections.

“His candidacy for the RNC shows he doesn’t know how to campaign for an office. Do you see the irony here? He’s campaigning to be the RNC chair for more campaigns, and his campaign for RNC chair is a bunch of boilerplate emails that have come very, very late,” Kaufmann told VICE News. “Making pillows and winning elections—I don’t think there’s a correlation there.”

Lindell told VICE News that he has qualified to appear on the ballot, which two RNC members said they’d confirmed with the committee. That means that at least two members from three states or territories have signed his paperwork. But Lindell refused to say who supports him.

“I wouldn’t tell you that in a million years. What, so you could go attack them? I’m not stupid. You guys must really think I’m dumb,” he told VICE News. “I’m going to [do] this—and I’m going to win.”

Current RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel is the heavy favorite in the race, with public endorsements from two-thirds of the RNC members who will vote in Friday’s election, to be held at the end of the RNC’s three-day winter meetings that begin in Dana Point, California on Wednesday. Former Trump campaign attorney and California Republican National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon has racked up dozens of endorsements from members and is running a dark-horse campaign blaming McDaniel for the party’s lackluster election results in the past three cycles. And then there’s Lindell. 

The election comes as one of the first tests of what direction Republican leaders want to head following the third straight election disappointment. Republicans lost the House in 2018, the White House and Senate in 2020 and blew a number of winnable gubernatorial and congressional races last winter, leaving them in the Senate minority and a razor-thin House majority. All three election cycles took place on McDaniel’s watch.

The party isn’t looking to pivot hard away from MAGA. But many RNC members recognize that a backward-looking obsession with election conspiracy theories cost them at the polls last cycle. Most want a leader who can help refocus on the future, which includes navigating a contested presidential primary between Trump and numerous other candidates without appearing to pick sides, while doing the tedious and unglamorous work of fundraising, list-building, and field organizing to be ready for 2024.

Lindell, whose political brand is based on unswerving fealty to Trump and a backwards-focused obsession with voting machine conspiracy theories, doesn’t fit that description.

This race could not be worse-designed for a fringe, bomb-throwing conspiracy theorist like Lindell whose power lies in his appeal to the hardline anti-establishment activists in the party’s base, and who has few allies among the actual group that picks the RNC chair.

While the organization’s membership grew more MAGA in the last six years—many state chairs remain fierce Trump defenders who echoed his false claims about the 2020 election—it’s still a group that knows the first goal of the organization is to raise gobs of money and build a field operation to help the party win elections (and in presidential election years like the upcoming year, fairly run a primary process).

Lindell insisted that he’s “been trying to get ahold of every one of the 168” voting members. But multiple RNC members told VICE News that they hadn’t heard anything from him—and didn’t know of anyone who had.

“I don’t know a single member who’s heard from the guy,” said one RNC member who hasn’t publicly committed to a candidate but told VICE News that he planned to vote for McDaniel.

That committeeman expressed frustration that Lindell had secured enough support to even be allowed on the ballot, which gives him a chance to speak at this week’s RNC meetings.

“I frankly think it’s embarrassing that he’s even officially nominated,” the committeeman said. “He’s done nothing but run his mouth about something he doesn’t understand, and now he wants to run the party? I’m not going to run his business just because I sleep on a MyPillow."

Another RNC committeeman who backs McDaniel said there’s no appetite for an outsider—especially one with so little understanding of what the RNC actually does.

“The committee wants one of their own, especially when there’s no White House to tell them what to do,” said the committee member. “They’re not going to elect someone who has no real understanding of the RNC."

Lindell was a prominent Trump ally and frequent White House and campaign trail guest throughout his presidency, and played a key role in spreading Trump’s election lies. He visited Trump at the White House days after the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot to advocate that Trump declare “martial law” (his notes were caught on camera). Once Trump left office, Lindell emerged as arguably the loudest advocate besides the former president himself to try to turn the midterm elections into a crusade against mail voting, electronic voting machines and all the people he thought had stolen the 2020 election.

Candidates who embraced his and Trump’s cause won their primaries in 2022, only to lose winnable statewide races in states including Arizona, Michigan and Nevada.

Lindell’s efforts have brought him some personal headaches as well. He’s currently facing a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, the voting machine company that he falsely accused of rigging the election. The FBI seized his phone in September, which Lindell has said was part of an investigation into possible tampering of Colorado’s election system.

The one RNC member who has publicly endorsed Lindell is Louisiana RNC Committeewoman Lenar Whitney, who like Lindell has pushed false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Whitney, who didn’t respond to a call and text from VICE News, sent a letter to fellow RNC members trumpeting his plans to “secure” elections.

“I am convinced now, more than ever, that the only path to a righteous outcome in American elections will be provided by a return to hand marked ballots printed on secure paper,” she wrote, as first reported by The Baton Rouge Advocate. “THE ONLY PERSON ADVOCATING SUCH A TRUE NORTH COURSE IS MIKE LINDELL.”

But she seems like a clear outlier—and it’s not just McDaniel supporters who are scoffing at Lindell’s bid.

New Jersey RNC committeeman Bill Palatucci has repeatedly criticized McDaniel and said the RNC needed a change at the top after a succession of losing elections. He’s backing Dhillon in spite of some reservations about her own ties to Trump.

Lindell wasn’t even an option for him.

“I don’t consider him a serious candidate,” Palatucci said. “He has no support amongst the committee.”

Some RNC members think McDaniel is partly to blame for this outcome, saying she didn’t do enough to separate the party from Trump and his backward-looking obsession with false claims the 2020 election was rigged. Those backing her say that it was the Trump- and Lindell-backed candidates, rather than anything McDaniel did at the RNC, who caused the party’s disappointing 2022 midterm.

Lindell disagrees that his candidates blew it, claiming without any evidence that they had their elections stolen from them. 

“Isn’t it funny that the candidates they stole from all have one thing in common: They were going to fix our elections once they were in,” he said, ticking off a half-dozen election-losing swing-state candidates who he’d endorsed. “You can sit here and you can twist this all you want, but then you’re just wasting my time.”

That’s hard to square with reality.

Republicans nominated election deniers for secretary of state in all but one swing state, and picked election-denying candidates for a number of key gubernatorial and Senate races as well. 

Almost all of those running in competitive races lost, costing the GOP control of the Senate, minimizing their House gains and blowing races up and down the ballot even as more establishment Republicans won contests across the country.

In Nevada, for instance, establishment Republican Joe Lombardo won his election for governor, while election-denying candidates including the state’s secretary of state nominee, who Lindell vocally backed, lost their races. In Arizona, a slate of election-denying GOP candidates endorsed by Lindell lost their races, but the GOP swept every race where they put up less controversial candidates, including state treasurer, superintendent for public instruction, and corporation commissioner. Georgia Republicans swept every statewide race except for the U.S. Senate, where Trump buddy Herschel Walker’s personal baggage cost them the election.

But while Lindell worked his tail off for Trump, the man who Lindell insists is still the rightful president hasn’t even publicly acknowledged that his buddy is running for RNC chair.

When the right-wing Breitbart News asked in December who Trump backed for RNC chair—McDaniel or Dhillon—he didn’t even mention Lindell.

“I think they’re both good,” Trump said, referencing only the two women running serious campaigns for chair. “I like them both.”

He made a similar comment last week.

“I like both of them. I get along with both of them. I haven’t taken a stance. Let them fight it out,” he said, once again ignoring Lindell.

Lindell insisted to VICE News that he was running a serious campaign, and expected to win on Friday.

But unlike with the past few election cycles, he said he’ll accept the results of the RNC’s secret ballot and if things don’t go his way on Friday he’ll admit defeat.

“Of course I would accept it,” he said. “There’s no machines involved. There’s no computers involved.”

Categories: Tech News

Laarb Recipe

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 04:00

Serves 4 to 6 
Prep time: 30 minutes 
Total time: 3 ½ hours

INGREDIENTS

**for the laarb paste: **2 slivers from one piece galangal
6 dried Thai chilies 
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 whole star anise
1 bay leaf
1 whole cardamom pod
1 whole clove
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 Indian Long Pepper (Dili)
1 piece nutmeg
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
¼ cup|60 ml vegetable oil
1 cup|250 ml fish sauce
1 cup|220 grams palm sugar

**for the laarb: **½ cup|75 grams pine nuts  
1 small shallot, finely diced              
¼ cup|250 ml olive oil         
1 to 2 tablespoons laarb paste, to taste                                                 
2 tablespoons fried shallots, plus more for garnish 
1 pound|450 grams lamb loin, trimmed and very finely chopped 
kosher salt, to taste
¼ cup|3 grams roughly chopped Thai basil leaves                    
¼ cup|5 grams roughly chopped mint leaves
¼ cup|7 grams roughly chopped dill
1 (4.9-ounce|140-gram) package black sesame rice crackers

DIRECTIONS

  1. Make the laarb paste: Heat oven to 300°F. Combine the galangal, chilies, and the dried spices in an aluminum parcel and roast in the oven for 2 hours uncovered. Shake every 30 minutes and move the spices around. Remove from the oven and cool, then grind all of the spices in a spice grinder.
  2. Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan over medium-low. Add the ground spices and reduce the heat to low. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar and cook until it forms a thick paste, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and set aside.
  3. Toast the pine nuts: Heat a small skillet over medium-low. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Place in a small bowl and let cool. 
  4. Make the laarb: In a large bowl, mix half of the pine nuts, the shallot, olive oil, laarb paste, and 2 tablespoons of fried shallots with the chopped lamb. Season to taste with salt.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the herbs. Reserve for garnish. Transfer the lamb mixture to a plate and top with some of the fried shallots and pine nuts. Garnish with the herb salad and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately with the black sesame rice crackers.

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Categories: Tech News

Global network outage hits Microsoft: Azure, Teams, Outlook all down

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 03:30
Redmond rolls back network change after cloud services dip in sympathy with profits

Microsoft is currently rolling back a network change across its wide area network that it believes toppled over a raft of its cloud services this morning, perhaps in solidarity with the company's tumbling profits.…

Categories: Tech News

Trump’s Criminal Nightmare in Georgia Is Looking Very Real

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 03:00

Where’s former president Donald Trump’s most pressing criminal investigation? There’s little doubt now: It’s in Georgia. 

Trump may now be just weeks or even days away from learning whether he’ll be criminally charged for election meddling in the state, according to comments made by a local prosecutor at a court hearing on Tuesday.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told a judge Tuesday that charging “decisions are imminent” in her long-running investigation of Trump’ s attempts to reverse his 2020 campaign defeat in the Peach State. She argued that a recently-completed Special Purpose Grand Jury report on Trump’s activities should stay secret for now in order to protect the integrity of potential future prosecutions of “multiple” people. 

“We are asking that the report not be released, because—you having seen that report—decisions are imminent,” Willis told Judge Robert McBurney. “We have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights.”

Willis’ latest remarks represent some of the strongest public comments she’s made yet indicating that her office may be about to bring a criminal case against a former U.S. president for the first time in history. Trump is being investigated by state prosecutors in Georgia and New York, and by a federal special counsel in Washington D.C. But Willis’ comments suggest her team is moving faster, and is closer to reaching a final charging decision, than any other.

Her office argued Tuesday that the report should remain sealed until she has made a public announcement about whether she plans to bring criminal charges or not, even though the 26 members of the Special Purpose Grand Jury voted to release the report to the public when they completed their investigation in January.  

Judge McBurney said he needed more time to deliberate, and that he would announce his decision in the coming days. He cautioned that he would give both sides time to appeal his decision before the report is published. 

“No one’s going to wake up with the court having disclosed the report on the front page of a newspaper,” he said.  

Willis launched her investigation after Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021 and urged the state official to help Trump “find” enough votes to win, even though President Joe Biden carried Georgia by 11,779 votes. The call was tape-recorded and then leaked to the media, including the Washington Post.

“All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”

Trump has repeatedly denied all wrongdoing. On Monday, he took to his social media company, Truth Social, to defend his call to Raffensperger as “perfect” and repeat his false assertion that he won the state of Georgia.  

“Many people, including lawyers for both sides, were knowingly on the line,” Trump wrote. “I was protesting a RIGGED & STOLEN Election.”

Willis can still seek an indictment of Trump or his allies regardless of whether, or when, the report is made public. 

Willis’ team has already informed almost 20 people that they are likely to be charged, including a group of over a dozen so-called “fake electors” who signed a document falsely declaring Trump the winner of the state of Georgia, and also Trump’s longtime attorney Rudy Giuliani. She has not publicly staked out a position about whether her office believes Trump broke the law. 

“The allegations are very serious,” Willis recently told the Washington Post. “If indicted and convicted, people are facing prison sentences.”

The report is likely to include a summary of the panel’s findings, along with specific charging recommendations or avenues for further investigation. The Special Purpose Grand Jury heard from 75 witnesses during its seven-month investigation, Willis said Tuesday. The panel subpoenaed testimony from top members of Trump’s inner circle, including former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, GOP South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. 

Trump’s attorneys did not appear at the hearing on Tuesday, but released a statement noting Trump was never called to testify in the probe. 

“The grand jury compelled the testimony of dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never found it important to speak with the President,” the statement from Trump’s attorneys said. “Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump.”

Willis’ investigation is separate from a federal probe of Trump’s attempts to stay in power despite losing the 2020 election, which is now being led by Special Counsel Jack Smith. Smith is also investigating whether Trump broke the law by bringing highly sensitive government documents marked classified to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.

Follow Greg Walters on Twitter.

Categories: Tech News

Charity Executives Jailed for Pocketing Millions Donated to Boeing Crash Victims

Motherboard (Vice) - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 02:41

Three top executives of a major Indonesian charity were convicted of embezzlement on Tuesday for stealing money intended for families and communities affected by the 2018 Lion Air plane crash.

In 2019, U.S. aerospace company Boeing pledged $50 million in financial assistance to the 189 grieving families who lost loved ones in the crash. But investigators found that top executives at Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT), an Islamic relief organization entrusted with distributing some of this compensation, stole millions from these funds.

ACT founder Ahyudin, who goes by one name, was handed a 3.5 year prison term after he was found guilty of misappropriating $7.8 million out of $9.2 million funneled through the organization by Boeing. Ibnu Khajar and Hariyana Hermain, ACT’s former president and vice president respectively, were also handed three year prison terms. 

The charity is one of Indonesia’s largest, receiving an average of $36 million in annual donations between 2018 and 2020, and it was chosen as a local counterpart organization for the Boeing Community Investment Fund. The airline’s $100 million initiative was created in 2019 to fund charitable projects in communities impacted by the Lion Air crash and the Ethiopian Airlines 302 crash.

Lion Air Flight 610 crashed into the Java Sea on Oct. 29, 2018 only 13 minutes after takeoff, killing all 189 people onboard. Investigators found that the Boeing 737 MAX’s flawed anti-stall system was ultimately responsible for the crash. Just five months later, in March 2019, the same anti-stall system caused Ethiopia Airlines 302 to crash, killing all 157 people onboard. The two incidents sparked global outrage and the grounding of all 737 MAX aircrafts worldwide. 

In July, the three men were charged with embezzlement after allegations of widespread fraud involving the Boeing funds came to light in an exposé by Indonesian magazine Tempo. The indictment later stated that only six of a proposed 70 social welfare projects came to fruition under ACT, while recipients in impacted communities complained of corner cutting and shoddy work by the charity on the work they did do.

Instead, the court heard, the funds were used to inflate the executives’ salaries and pay outstanding debts on ACT’s sister company. Ahyudin took home a salary of more than $16,000 per month, around 85 times the average Indonesian monthly salary, and owned several cars. In July, Indonesia's Counter Terrorism Unit also announced they were investigating the alleged transfer of funds to ACT members with links to terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. It’s unclear if this link was ever substantiated.

Prosecutors sought a four year jail sentence for each of the men, the maximum handed out for embezzlement in Indonesia. But with that threshold not even met, many are calling their punishment inadequate. Anton Sahadi, a spokesperson for the victims’ families, told local news agencies after the ruling that they got off lightly.

“They deliberately misused the funds. It’s the same as killing,” he told outlet BenarNews. “They should receive heavier punishments, 12 years, 15 years, 20 years, for example.”

Follow Alastair McCready on Twitter.

Follow Caleb Quinley on Twitter.

Categories: Tech News

IPv6 for Dummies: NSA pushes security manual on DoD admins

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 02:21
There's good advice here for any IT pro dealing with the transition

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has published a guidance document for system administrators to help them mitigate potential security issues as their organizations transition to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).…

Categories: Tech News

Defra 'confident' it has 'handle' on risk for 30% of apps out of support

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 01:30
UK government applies 'hypercare' to applications to try to avoid security and stability risks

The UK's department for farming and agriculture has said it is "confident" it is managing the risk related to a whopping 30 percent of its applications being out of vendor support.…

Categories: Tech News

Go to security school, GoTo – theft of encryption keys shows you need it

The Register - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 00:28
Ongoing investigation into cloud storage attack finds customer data exfiltrated

Remote access outfit GoTo has admitted that a threat actor exfiltrated an encryption key that allowed access to "a portion" of encrypted backup files.…

Categories: Tech News

Microsoft: You're not out of love with cloud, you're just 'optimizing' it for a bit

The Register - Tue, 01/24/2023 - 23:33
Q2 results include modest revenue increase, steep consumer and net income decrease

Microsoft has posted modest growth for the quarter ended December 31, 2022, with its consumer-centric products recording marked revenue dips.…

Categories: Tech News

Space dust reveals Earth-killer asteroids would be tough to destroy

The Register - Tue, 01/24/2023 - 22:30
Good luck blowing up a pile of rubble. Boffins suggest we'll need to create a diversion instead

An asteroid named Itokawa that's been identified as potentially hazardous to Earth would be difficult to destroy, according to new research analyzing dust particles collected from the ancient rock.…

Categories: Tech News

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