Logan Hochstetler

Logan Hochstetler

Just Eat has delivered its first take away with a delivery robot to a customer in Greenwich, launching a pilot project that will involve transporting food in the city using autonomous vehicles. 
Following extensive testing, Europe's biggest online delivery food company Just Eat has become the first in the world to successfully transport a takeaway with a robot. 
The maiden delivery comes months after the company said it would be testing the robots in the area. Just Eat announced the partnership with Starship Technologies, makers of slow moving pavement droids, back in July and said it would start robotic deliveries later that month. 
Starship's robots are autonomous and unlock with a code sent to the customers' phone
Starship's robots are autonomous and unlock with a code sent to the customers' phone CREDIT: JUST EAT


Just Eat has plans to expand the use of robotic delivery drivers in the capital in a move that could long term see the number of human drivers employed by restaurants cut back. The robot, which has been tested in more than 40 cities across Europe, costs around £1 per delivery compared with the £3 to £6 it costs for a human courier.
"We are delighted to add robot home delivery to the Just Eat service," said Graham Corfield, UK managing director of Just Eat. "Now that we are live in Greenwich, we're working towards a larger rollout of the pilot programme across London in the New Year."
The futuristic courier, created by two former co-founders of Skype who launched Starship Technologies in 2014, is a six-wheeled automated trolley that travels at speeds of up to 4mph.
It can carry up to 10 kilograms or three shopping bags and has a range of 10 miles, meaning it can transport food within a two to three mile radius, which takes 15 to 30 minutes. The robot can direct itself and avoid obstacles using a GPS signal and nine cameras, but it is also monitored remotely at all times.
Customers cannot choose to have the Starship robot deliver food, but will be alerted in the app if one is on its way to them. When the robot arrives, the customer receives a notification with a code that unlocks the pavement robot. 

Author:  Cara McGoogan

Source:  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

On paper, Skype is now a tempting choice for a company, as well as being the go-to tool for catching up with tech-fearing relatives. While some businesses may be using the familiar consumer version(which is also available as a web service), the app also comes in another flavor: Skype for Business, which is part of the Office 365 platform. Skype for Business is a rebranded version of Lync, Microsoft's previous business communication tool. It was launched in mid 2015 and brought with it a whole host of enterprise security and IT control features, and includes some great tools for company collaboration.

But Skype (in both forms) is by no means without its issues (many of which are well documented), such as poor call quality, out-of-control notifications, poor connections, problems with Skype credit, and so on. The good news is that there are many communication apps that are credible alternatives to Microsoft's popular product. Here are some of the best of the bunch.



RingCentral is an voice-focused alternative to Skype that brings a professional edge to VoIP for business. The solution emphasizes security, as well as ease of use, focusing on voice calling, text messaging and conference. And those are tasks that RingCentral does exceptionally well. Overall, it's solid, reliable, and flexible.


8×8 helps you to better service your customers with a smattering of intuitive features and a squeaky clean interface. It's a fully-featured VoIP application that provides more than just phone service. 8×8 also includes first-class web conferencing, faxing and mobile integration. If you're switching from Skype, you'll appreciate the improved audio quality, which sounds clear as a bell, thanks to its audio compression methods. Add to that excellent iOS and Android integration, and 8×8 quickly becomes a worthy alternative to Skype for business.


Nextiva No matter if you are emerging, entrepreneurial and growing business or a larger organization that need executive level phone service, Nextiva is a solution for you. It provides flexibility, affordability and reliability you need to run your business, with a comprehensive feature set. And, it's all delivered without any CapEx, on-premise hardware costs or system requirementsWhile you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading Phone.com's software, you computer can serve this purpose just as well.


Phone.com is all about VoIP rather than video chat, focusing on providing the a fully-featured conference call service for your business. Innovative features include conference calling for up to 500 people, SMS messaging to your Phone.com number, the ability to send and receive faxes from your account, and integration with the Phone.com mobile app, which allows you to start group messaging chats. While you can use traditional landlines and mobile phones, the good news is that by downloading Phone.com's software, you computer can serve this purpose just as well.



Aircall's VoIP solution is an excellent way to simplify and localize the way you connect with your customer. From providing you with local phone numbers in up-to 30 countries, to cascading phone calls through team members, to the shared inbox option where multiple employees can access voice messages, Aircall has a strong feature set. There are also no limits to the amount of calls you can make at one time, while desktop notifications mean that you can always be aware of when your customers are calling.

Team on the Run

Team on the Run is a robust and scalable mobile messaging application, Team on the Run was designed for businesses of all sizes. From five-person wedding planning agencies to private organizations with 10,000 or more employees, Team on the Run is a reliable and convenient tool that saves organizations time, money, and space. In addition to secure mobile messaging, Team on the Run also offers mobile corporate directories, ECM support and cloud storage access, web chat, and VoIP/walkie-talkie capabilities..


As the name suggests, GoToMeeting is all about arranging meetings and it makes it pretty easy, too. With the ability to virtually meet with up to 25 people, you can either chose to chat via video or VoIP, or join with your mobile phone. There's a plethora of other useful features, including screen sharing, personal "chat rooms", and the ability to record the meeting and share it with those people who were unable to attend. It's straightforward and simple to use.

Zoho Meeting

There are a couple of features that make Zoho Meeting a particularly interesting alternative to Skype. First of all, as Zoho offers a number of other apps such as CRM, Chat, and Calendar, you can start the meeting directly from there, as well as other integrations such as Google Apps. What makes it a useful business tool is that you can rebrand the app according to your company brand, as well as easily manage users and create customized reports. Then it also comes with all the usual features, such as VoIP, video chat, and screen sharing.

Cisco WebEx

Cisco WebEx has a strong focus on HD video calling, with a key feature being its ability to show seven screens at a time. It also comes with audio and video recording options, as well as annotation, note taking, and whiteboarding tools. The screen sharing feature is pretty cool, allowing you to only share certain apps on your screen, instead of your whole desktop, as is the "call me" option, which has a phone call you instead of you having to dial in.


While Join.me may market itself as a simple solution that is super easy to use, it actually boasts features to rival its more "complicated" competitors. It has the usual VoIP, screensharing, video chat, and file transfer features, plus record functionality, the ability to chat with up to 250 participants, calendar plug ins, Salesforce.com integration, cloud storage, and personal chat rooms, along with integrated mobile apps. Overall, it's a fully-featured program that is suitable even for tech novices.

If you still haven't found what you're looking for, check out GetApp's full list of communication apps, or see how customer service, CRM, and call center apps are rated on GetRank, GetApp's quarterly ranking of business apps.

Source : https://www.getapp.com

Author : Karen McCandless

The most mysterious technological object on the planet should have been destroyed at least three times.

First, the device made it through a violent shipwreck in the Mediterranean Sea. Then, it sat submerged in salt water on a sandy cliff 200 feet below the surface of the ocean for more than two millennia. After it was hauled back to dry land in the year 1901, the object was forgotten for nearly a year. A lump of corroded bronze and shredded wood, it was left to rot in an ordinary crate in the open courtyard of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

It should have disintegrated. It almost did.

At the time, Museum workers were focused on other things. The bizarre events that led to the object’s discovery began in the autumn of 1900, when fishermen diving for sea sponges off the coast of Antikythera, Greece, came face to face with a ghastly sight. The seabed they searched wasn’t dotted with sponges. It was strewn with bodies.

The first sponge diver to resurface was panicked by what he’d seen. There were too many men and horses for him to count, presumably they’d been doomed in a shipwreck. Except they weren’t corpses, after all. The bodies were statues, part of an astounding collection of ancient works, a blockbuster archaeological find.

Over the course of the next 10 months, divers recovered scores of marble and bronze artifacts from the Antikythera shipwreck, which today remains the largest ancient ship ever found. Nearly all of the ship's equipment was massively oversized—including tremendous hull planks more than 4 inches thick. (They left behind even more treasures than they collected, opting to scrap the recovery after one man died of the bends and two others were paralyzed.) The shipwreck made headlines around the world—in part because it yielded several rare bronze statues, which scholars believed might be the work of Lysippos or Praxiteles, two of the most important Classical Greek sculptors of the fourth century B.C.E., according to newspaper reports at the time.  

But the divers had dredged up something even more precious. They wouldn’t realize it until nearly a year later, when museum curators peered into a forgotten crate in an Athens courtyard and began to examine the hunk of oxidized metal inside.

The corroded device still bore faded inscriptions and it appeared to have the guts of a clock, mechanics that didn’t make any sense. After all, the lump had been found among the wreckage of a ship that sailed the Mediterranean more than 1,000 years before timekeeping gearwork first appeared in Medieval Europe. When the ship went down, no one on the planet was supposed to have had complex scientific instruments—what was this thing?

It came to be known as the Antikythera Mechanism. In the decades that followed, with ever more sophisticated technology to guide them, researchers would begin to understand how the peculiar device once worked. Today, the mechanism is often described as the world’s oldest computer—more precisely, it seemed to be an analog machine for modeling and predicting astronomical and calendrical patterns. Even before it was lost, the device must have been a treasure. When it was new, the mechanism was a turn-crank marvel housed in a rectangular wooden case, like a mantel clock, with two dials on the back. Instead of having two hands to tell the time on the front, the mechanism had seven hands for displaying the movement of celestial bodies—the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The planets were represented by tiny spheres that could themselves rotate, with the moon painted black and silvery white to depict its phases.

Yet the mystery of the mechanism is only partly solved. No one knows who made it, how many others like it were made, or where it was going when the ship carrying it sank. More than a century since it was discovered, the Antikythera Mechanism remains one of the strangest objects that has survived from the ancient world.

“We know what it did, but we don’t know exactly why they wanted it to do that, what it was used for, and the context in which it was used,” said Jo Marchant, the author of Decoding the Heavens: A 2,000-Year-old Computer and the Century Long Search to Discover Its Secrets. “We don’t know whether it was a teaching instrument in a school, or if a rich person would have had this on their dining table, whether it had religious importance, whether it had an astrological meaning—just what it meant to people.”

The prevailing theory today is that the mechanism was manufactured in Rhodes, perhaps for a buyer in Greece. Marine archaeologists and other researchers who have studied the Antikythera shipwreck believe the vessel was a gargantuan grain transporter, packed with valuable works of art, technology, and other luxury goods likely intended for trade, that set sail around 70 B.C.E. (Scholars suspect that grain would have been a natural, useful packing material.) It’s possible that the ship carried many strange and wonderful automata. One of the statues recovered from the site appears to have once stood on an automated pedestal.

Those who have studied the shipwreck believe the vessel could have carried several twins of the Antikythera Mechanism. The mechanism as it was recovered is split into three pieces and represents only a portion of the device as it was built. Scholars believe the rest of it was either destroyed, or is still on the seafloor, covered in sand. “Clearly, this mechanism wasn’t a one-off,” Marchant told me. “It was too sophisticated. It must be part of a whole tradition of these mechanisms.”

“What I believe is that it cannot be just one mechanism and there must be more of them somewhere else,” said Theotokis Theodoulou, an archaeologist and the head of Underwater Antiquities for Greece’s Ministry of Culture. “The Antikythera shipwreck could be such a site.”

Another possibility is more startling: What if other objects like the Antikythera Mechanism have already been discovered and forgotten? There may well be documented evidence of such finds somewhere in the world, in the vast archives of human research, scholarly and otherwise, but simply no way to search for them. Until now.

* * *

Scholars have long wrestled with “undiscovered public knowledge,” a problem that occurs when researchers arrive at conclusions independently from one another, creating fragments of understanding that are “logically related but never retrieved, brought together, [or] interpreted,” as Don Swanson wrote in an influential 1986 essay introducing the concept. “That is,” he wrote, “not only do we seek what we do not understand, we often do not even know at what level an understanding might be achieved.” In other words, on top of everything we don’t know, there’s everything we don’t know that we already know.

Solving this problem, Swanson argued, would require efforts “no less profound than trying to formalize human language, creativity, or inventiveness.” Thirty years after he published his essay, we no longer have to rely on human contrivances alone. Now, with the ubiquity of the internet and the rise of machine learning, a new kind of solution is beginning to take shape. The infrastructure of the web, built to link one resource to the next, was the beginning. The next wave of information systems promises to more deeply establish links between people, ideas, and artifacts that have, so far, remained out of reach—by drawing connections between information and objects that have come unmoored from context and history.

A simple Google search for “Antikythera Mechanism” turns up about 351,000 results, the first several pages of which are news articles, a Wikipedia page, and a few academic papers. These results offer decent context for what the device is, and the mystery surrounding it, but none of them go very deep. It would take quite a bit of additional reading and searching, for instance, to get to the 10th-century Arabic manuscript, discovered in the 1970s, that some researchers believe is proof that the Antikythera Mechanism directly influenced the development of modern clockwork, more than a millennia after the shipwreck at Antikythera.

Discovery in the online realm is powered by a mix of human curiosity and algorithmic inquiry, a dynamic that is reflected in the earliest language of the internet. The web was built to be explored not just by people, but by machines. As humans surf the web, they’re aided by algorithms doing the work beneath the surface, sequenced to monitor and rank an ever-swelling current of information for pluckable treasures. The search engine’s cultural status has evolved with the dramatic expansion of the web. Once a mere organizer or information, Google is now treated as an oracle.

The tipping point for this perception came sometime between 1993 and 1995, as the total number of websites online grew from about 130 to nearly 24,000. In 1994, for instance, a web search for the word “culinary” turned up nothing, according to a New York Times story published the following year. Within months, the same search yielded 800 websites. Search “culinary” today and you get 97 million results. There are, as of this writing, billions upon billions of webpages across more than 1 billion websites online, according to Internet Live Stats, and the galactic growth of the web over the course of the past two decades has required search engines to become smarter and faster as a result.

Google won the first battle of the search engines because of its obsession with relevancy, using a variety of weighted factors, such as a site’s quality or popularity, to influence the order of search results as they appear on a person’s screen. It wasn’t so long ago that this was a groundbreaking approach to search filtering. Algorithmic sorting was, in the year 2000, “‘the new nuclear bomb’ of the search-engine world,” Danny Sullivan, the technologist and founder of the website Search Engine Land, told The New York Times that year. But Google had already been thinking this way since its inception. Google’s “I’m Feeling Lucky” button was introduced when the search giant was still in beta, in 1998, as a way of communicating that it knew, down to a single search result, how to deliver what people wanted to find. (The button was designed to take people directly to whichever website Google determined was most relevant to their search, instead of showing them a list of 10 possible options.)

In its success, Google became the embodiment of a decades-long dream among information scientists to reorder the world’s data in ways that would make all of human knowledge more accessible. The search giant is still constantly tweaking its methods to meet the demands of a data-flooded digital world. Google now uses machine learning—as part of its RankBrain search system—in every single query it processes, a Google engineer told the tech site Backchannel earlier this year.

Using machines to find meaning in vast sets of data has been one of the great promises of the computing age since long before the internet was built. In his prescient essay, “As We May Think,” published by The Atlantic in 1945, the influential engineer and inventor Vannevar Bush imagined a future in which machines could handle tasks of logic by consulting large troves of connected data. His essay would prove instrumental in influencing early hypertext—which in turn helped shape the linked infrastructure of the web as we know it.

Bush envisioned sophisticated “selection devices” that would be able to comb through dense information and yield the relevant bits quickly and accurately. At the center of all this was what Bush called the Memex, his idea for a deep indexing system that could consolidate and search mammoth collections of information in various formats—including text, photocells, microfilm, and audio. The Memex, he argued, would be a technological solution to an almost existential problem: The totality of recorded human knowledge was constantly growing, but the tools for consulting this ever-swelling record remained “totally inadequate.” Instead, he looked to the intricate pathways of the human mind to inspire the architecture of a fantastical new system.

The Memex remains among Bush’s best known contributions to modern computing, including the computers he himself built in the 1920s and 1930s. Those machines, called differential analyzers, involved wheel-and-disc mechanisms designed to solve equations—a new kind of computational complexity in the 20th century, but based on much older inventions. “This idea is far from original,” he wrote in 1931, “...utilizing complex mechanical interrelationships as substitutes for intricate processes of reasoning owes its inception to an inventor of calculus itself.” Bush was referring to Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the 17th-century philosopher and mathematician.

What Bush did not realize was that the predecessor for his machine was far, far older than Leibniz. The oldest known analog computer is the device found at Antikythera.

* * *

The island of Antikythera often appears as just a fleck on the map, if it’s pictured at all, in the cool waters that separate Cape Malea and Crete between the Aegean Sea and the Mediterranean.

In 1953, the ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau and his crew, voyaging on the research vessel Calypso, found themselves in this region. Windy seas had forced them to take shelter at Kythera, an island about 22 miles northwest of Antikythera. It was there that a little boy named John told Cousteau and his colleagues about what was hidden in the choppy waters nearby. “John introduced us to two fishermen who claimed to have knowledge of a sunken city, which is something every diver dreams about,” the legendary diver Frédéric Dumas wrote in his 1972 book, 30 Centuries Under the Sea. “So we were quickly back in the sea again.”

The next morning, locals agreed to lead the divers to the wreck site, where Dumas was the first to go down. “The water was so transparent that I felt as if it might let me fall right down the cliff, which extended vertically to a group of fallen boulders a hundred sixty feet below,” he wrote in his book. “Although I saw no trace of the wreck, I was sure it was there.”

Dumas’s certainty came in part from his appreciation for the local network of knowledge he’d stumbled upon—the kind of information that would have been difficult if not impossible to get from any other source at the time. (Today, Google can take the casual web explorer to a virtual pushpin on a map, showing where the Antikythera shipwreck is located.) “The excavation in 1901 was still the most important event in the history of the island, and it was unlikely that the fishermen, who lived by tradition, could have forgotten the location, especially when they had the cliff to go by, and not just some remote landmarks or a certain distance out to sea.”

“For some inexplicable reason,” he added, “I felt that the terrain was not in its natural, unspoiled state.

In subsequent dives, he and his colleagues found bits of pottery, amphoras, decanters, a fragment of an ancient anchor, and other scattered debris. At one point, they used a makeshift vacuum-like device, made from a sheet-metal pipe, to suck up artifacts from the wreck more efficiently—a destructive practice that makes today’s archaeologists cringe. Dumas remembered the wreck site as both lovely and unnerving. Even at dusk, when the waters seemed “black and uninviting,” soft light filtered down to the boulders below. “The rocks had taken on a disturbingly somber appearance and the sand had become more luminous,” he wrote.

“After the tomb of Tutankhamen was opened, some superstitious individuals remarked that all the scientists who had worked on the project died from unnatural causes,” Dumas wrote. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say the same about ancient wrecks, but it is true that such ships, with their air of mystery and promise of lost treasures, fascinate the average diver and cause him to lose the sangfroid that is so necessary in underwater operations.” Dumas remained convinced that vast treasures from the ship remained at the site—including, he thought, the other half of a strange mechanism, almost like an “astronomical clock” which he and Cousteau had gone to see in Athens. The rest of the device, he surmised, was still in the sand amid the rest of the 2,000-year-old wreckage.

After a few weeks in the region, the crew moved on to Sicilian waters, leaving the mystery of the mechanism behind. From there, it would be more than two decades before Dumas and Cousteau returned to Antikythera, this time to conduct a full excavation of the wreck. In 1976, using the most sophisticated diving technology available at the time, the team discovered hundreds of artifacts—a cache of pottery, bronze ship nails, ornate glassware, gold jewelry, ancient coins, gemstones, an oil lamp, a marble hand, even a human skull. They sifted the sand in search of gearwork, hoping to find more mechanisms or even pieces of the original. There was nothing.

* * *

If the Antikythera Mechanism has a twin somewhere in the world—a device that’s been discovered and forgotten, or perhaps never fully appreciated for what it is—how can researchers even begin to look for it?

“Before the Antikythera Mechanism, not one single gearwheel had ever been found from antiquity, nor indeed any example of an accurate pointer or scale,” Marchant wrote in her book. “Apart from the Antikythera Mechanism, they still haven’t."

That might be about to change. The search engine as we know it now is undergoing a period of radical reinvention, in processing power and in structure, and is likely to be transformed even more dramatically in the years to come. “[Today’s] search engines were a fantastic instrument to get you to where the information is,” said Ruggero Gramatic, the founder and CEO of the search app Yewno, “but often it’s not about searching, but also discovering something that you don’t know you’re looking for.”

Yewno resembles a search engine—you use it to search for information, after all—but its structure is network-like rather than list-based the way Google’s is. The idea is to return search results that illustrate relationships between different relevant resources—mapping out connections between people, events, and concepts affiliated with the search. (You can choose how many related concepts you want to see when you search; anywhere from fewer than 20 to more than 100).

Yewno, which was built primarily for academic researchers, is populated by tens of millions of books and journal articles from nearly two dozen well-known publishers like Spring, Nature, MIT Press, and JSTOR. Gramatic says Yewno’s database will swell to 78 million papers and documents by the end of the year, and will keep growing from there.

“What algorithms can help us do is process the whole information and delve into the knowledge to create something that is very similar to an inference,” he told me. “So when you are looking for something … thinking laterally—not just sequentially, but in a cross-disciplinary way—so you can connect things that are apparently unrelated. That is basically where we see the whole area of information processing going from now on.”

If there is any hope of finding new information about the Antikythera Mechanism—or, for that matter, any additional devices like it—it is likely that machines, working alongside human researchers, will play a pivotal role.

Just as Vannevar Bush envisioned, engineers are building computer models of neural networks, machines that mimic the elegance and complexity of human thought. But there are still many challenges ahead. Sourcing is a big one. Even a database built from tens of millions of well-vetted books and articles isn’t comprehensive. And there’s still the question of how the results from these new search engines ought to appear to the person searching. A simple graph that shows a connect-the-dots web of related resources and ideas is one way. A more sophisticated map-like interface is another—“like Google Maps,” Gramatic offers—but you’d still lose scale and context as you zoom in and out.

“In terms of how to visualize it, that is one of the biggest challenges. We need to move away from the list-of-links approach, like the traditional search engine, because otherwise you’re back to the same situation where you need to click, and read, and click, and another window opens, and another window, and another window—and you don’t let your brain see the whole connection.”

“In 10 years, I think we’re going to be offering an instrument where the ability to unearth information and correlate information is done for you,” he adds. “And basically you will ask a machine to generate an inference.” In this way, a search for “Antikythera Mechanism” might not only lead you to surprisingly relevant, long-lost manuscripts—but actually pose a theory that explains how the device is connected to such documents.

“I’m absolutely convinced that knowledge is a big chain starting from … the neolithic times, even earlier, and reaching our times.”

People who are thinking deeply about the future of search tend to agree that this sort of machine inference will be possible, yet there’s still no straightforward path to such a system. For all the promise and sophistication of machine learning systems, inference computing is only in its infancy. Computer can carry out massive contextualization tasks like facial recognition, but there are still many limitations to even the most impressive systems. Nevertheless, once machines can help process and catalogue huge troves of text—a not-too-distant inevitability in machine learning, many computer scientists say—it seems likely that a flood of previously forgotten artifacts will emerge from the depths of various archives.

Consider a discovery that occurred in 2012, for example, when a crucial document from American history surfaced after having been lost for nearly 150 years. It was a medical report on President Abraham Lincoln’s condition, written by the first doctor to arrive at Ford’s Theatre after Lincoln was shot. The document had been sent to the surgeon general shortly after Lincoln’s death. It had the potential to change the way scholars understood one of the darkest moments in American history.

It wasn’t actually lost, though. “No, it was in a box of other incoming correspondence to the Surgeon General, filed alphabetically under “L” for Leale, [the name of the doctor who wrote it],” Suzanne Fischer, a historian of technology and science, wrote for The Atlantic in 2012. “In short, this document that had been excavated from the depths of the earth with great physical effort was right where it was supposed to be.”

The trouble was with how the document had been catalogued. “This is because archivists catalogue not at ‘item level,’ a description of every piece of paper, which would take millennia, but at ‘collection level,’ a description of the shape of the collection, who owned it, and what kinds of things it contains. With the volume of materials, some collections may be undescribed or even described wrongly.”

But the bigger problem was this: “No one knew it existed, so how to locate it was beside the point,” Helena Iles Papaioannou, the researcher who found the document, wrote in a response to Fischer.

In the case of the Lincoln report, a human researcher happened upon the document. In the future, such serendipity may not be necessary. A machine that scrapes vast catalogues of text for context would be able to comb archived collections at the item level. (Of course, this would require digitization of the physical document, but that’s another issue). “I don’t think machines are going to completely supplant us, but they’re certainly going to augment our ability to discover things,” said Sam Arbesman, a scientist who studies complexity and the future of knowledge. “There are going to be more and more of these human-machine partnerships, especially in the realm of innovation and discovery.”

The structural underpinnings for these sorts of partnerships are already being built at the institutional level. For several years, the Library of Congress has been working with several universities—including Stanford, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia—on a project it calls BIBFRAME, a next-generation cataloguing system that will ultimately replace the current electronic system that most libraries use. The outgoing system, built on MARC records—short for MAchine-Readable Cataloging record—was what replaced physical card catalogues in the 1970s. Today’s electronic records are designed such that you can trace any descriptive element from one record—an author’s name, for example—to other records stored in the same format. But BIBFRAME will go much deeper, producing links that reveal connections about any number of other elements related to a book or resource, including items from the web. The new system is built for the Internet Age, and meant to meet expectations about how people search for information online. “[The existing system] is self contained and library-oriented, and we need to get something that is conversant with the larger information community,” said Beacher Wiggins, the library’s director for acquisitions and bibliographic access. With BIBFRAME, the idea is to use “the same language that the browser community and the internet community uses,” so that the library stays linked to outside resources even as browser technology changes.

It’s easy to see how such a system could accelerate major discoveries. In the 1950s, it took years for the Yale University historian, Derek de Solla Price, to work his way back through various manuscripts and scientific documents and eventually, having stumbled upon the Antikythera Mechanism, rewrite the history of modern clockwork. Price’s research spanned thousands of years of technological history. The Antikythera Mechanism, Price concluded, was not just a miracle of early gearwork but represented the very origin of modern machinery. While much of what he discovered came from his own direct observations of the mechanism and his ability to contextualize other findings related to it, consider how much more he might have learned if a computer had helped him comb through millions of documents in the first place. The right algorithm could find the thread between the wheel, the astrolabe, the sundial, and the Antikythera Mechanism—then produce a web of resources illustrating those connections.

It won’t be long before the public can begin ferreting out information this way themselves. In March, the Library of Congress completed its first pilot program for the new BIBFRAME system—which included transferring some 10,000 records to the new format. Now, it’s preparing for another test run, set to begin in early 2017. As part of the next pilot, the library is also developing specifications for other institutions who want to convert their data into the new format. The more data involved, the more powerful BIBFRAME becomes. The Library of Congress alone plans to convert around 20 million records to the new format within the next five years. “But keep in mind,” Wiggins says, “the library itself has 162 million items and all of those are not covered by MARC records even. Then you start thinking about the entire collection of MARC records in the world and you get into the hundreds of millions. How do you manage that? How do you have everyone who has a repository of MARC data come on aboard? I suppose in an ideal world, the goal is to convert all of them, but we know that won’t happen.”

“The value that I see going forward is the linking part of the data environment,” Wiggins added. “You start searching at one point, but you may be linked to things you didn’t know existed because of how another institution has listed it. This new system will show the relationship there. That’s going to be the piece that makes this transformative. It is the linking that is going to be the transformative.”

The idea for linking information this way can be traced back more than 70 years, all the way to Bush’s Memex. But none of it would be possible without new technology. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will change the way people search, but the search environments themselves will evolve, too. Already, computer scientists are building search functionalities into virtual reality. In other words, the future of human knowledge—how we discover and contextualize what we know—depends almost entirely on tools and digital spaces that are rapidly changing and will continue to change.

* * *

The field of marine archaeology, still in its infancy, began at Antikythera. Though the sponge divers in 1901 were able to recover great treasures without modern SCUBA gear, they really only ever glimpsed the environment of the wreck. More than a century later, divers have exhaustively searched this undersea world, with robot crawlers, 3-D mapping, closed circuit rebreathers, and an astronaut-like exosuit, among other technologies. All of the divers who have searched the site over the years have themselves become a crucial and “very symbolic” part of wreck’s significance, says Theodoulou, of Greece’s Ministry of Culture.

Today, the story of the wreck and those who have sought to understand it is told in a scatter of objects lost and found on the sandy sea shelf below the cliffs of Antikythera—and in the knowledge of the local folks who have led explorers to the site. “And it’s all embedded in this framework of technology,” Theodoulou told me. “The technology used over time to approach the site and the technological knowledge that the cargo itself provides to us.” That includes the heavy bronze helmets divers used in 1901, the early SCUBA equipment Cousteau used in 1953, a new kind of dredging tool that slurped up artifacts in 1976, all the way up to the advanced mapping software and high-tech diving suits of the past decade.

“We’ve got this feeling that we’re walking in the footsteps of giants, and that’s really cool,” said Brendan Foley, a marine archaeologist from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has dived the wreck site multiple times. On one dive at Antikythera, for instance, Foley and his colleagues recovered a remarkably well preserved dinner plate—not an ancient artifact, they later realized, but likely a remnant from the dive mission in 1901. “We feel a direct connection to those sponge divers, and some of the things we’ve found that are most evocative are not the ancient artifacts but have to do with the 1901 and 1953 expeditions.”

“I’m absolutely convinced that knowledge is a big chain starting from the long past, from the neolithic times, even earlier, and reaching our times,” Theodoulou told me. “Rings of this chain have been broken in some places, but the chain is the same. You just have to find the pieces and bind them together. And the mechanism is the absolute, tangible example. It is so sophisticated that it could not be just a chance example, a chance find.”

Searching for lost information about the device is, in its own way, as much of a challenge as searching the seabed for fragments of the mechanism itself. But while many researchers are holding out hope that another mechanism might be found in the the ocean at Antikythera, it’s more likely that a similar device from the same era might be found elsewhere—or that other ancient artifacts or records might help fill in gaps of understanding about the existing device.

Researchers have long explored a possible link between the mechanism’s design and ancient Babylonian astronomical data. There are hints, too, in the writings of Cicero about the existence of a device that could reproduce the motions of the sun, moon, and planets. Later, around 400 C.E., the poet Claudian wrote of a “bold invention” of “human wit” that used a “toy moon” and other spheres to mimic nature. Researchers now believe that the use of gearwork to model celestial bodies was common among Islamic engineers in later centuries—and perhaps as part of a tradition inherited from the ancient Greeks. Several researchers believe that Archimedes’ treatise on sphere-making, a long-lost manuscript that’s referenced in existing works, could shed light on the origin of the Antikythera Mechanism. But it may never be found. The ancient documents that survive today aren’t always the best quality, in large part because the people who choose what to save over the course of many generations have different goals and value systems than the historians who come after them.

Surviving artifacts, especially anything made from bronze like the mechanism, are even harder to come by. Many such objects were melted down to make weapons and ammunition. We know from historic records that there were thousands—maybe even millions—of large bronze statues in ancient Greece. “Pliny wrote that there were 3,000 in the streets of Rhodes city alone, and this was in the first century A.D.,” Marchant wrote. Today, in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, which boasts among the best collections of statues from this era on the planet, there are only 10.

“All but one,” Marchant wrote, “are from shipwrecks.”

* * *

Time erases most everything and everyone, eventually. Any effort to understand the past is based entirely on incomplete records. And because it is impossible to standardize the language used to catalogue what’s left, or to fully index what is found, humans are unable to search through our own vast repositories of knowledge.

To discover hidden gems in existing stores of human knowledge, Swanson wrote in his 1986 essay, we would need a massive thesaurus—one that describes “all relationships that people know about and then determine, for each search, which among those relationships” are actually relevant. “To build such a universal thesaurus entails no less than modeling all of human knowledge,” he wrote. It would be an impossible task—not least of all because, “to use such a thesaurus, one would have to retrieve relevant information from it, so a second universal thesaurus would be needed as a retrieval aid to the first, and so on ad infinitum. The builder of a thesaurus is, in principle, lost in an infinite regress.”

There’s some hope yet. Artificially intelligent systems are already creating and distilling robust models of human knowledge, but they’ll still be constrained by the datasets that feed into them. So there will be some degree of luck involved if, for instance, a machine happens upon an ancient document that reveals the whereabouts of more machines like the Antikythera Mechanism, or determines who built the one found on the Mediterranean seafloor so many decades ago. At the same time, the evolution of information systems makes remarkable discoveries seem more possible now than ever before. “All I can say is there are an awful lot of manuscripts that have never been read, let alone translated,” Marchant told me. “I think it really is a reminder of how much we don’t know.”

“Think how many other types of technology there must have been that we don’t know about,” she added. “What I find fascinating is this: We see this ancient technology and initially it seems it was lost, and we’re like, ‘Where did it go?’ But then you look and you see the threads, connecting it through history—of a sundial or the 13th century astrolabe. So it survived and played a key role in stimulated the tech we take for granted. The way different cultures use things in different ways, technology can become almost unrecognizable, but the kernel of that technology lives on.”

The richest source for new information about the mechanism may, for example, be waiting for researchers in old Islamic manuscripts—thousands of documents that have never been catalogued or translated by anyone with the technical expertise to appreciate what they might contain.

Or, perhaps the mystery of the mechanism will never be solved.

No amount of technology or depth of curiosity can bring back what’s forever lost. This is why searching is, and will always be, a “necessarily uncertain” endeavor, as Swanson put it. Searching for lost knowledge is its own kind of science, but ultimately an incomplete one. “In that sense,” Swanson wrote, “there are no limits to either science or information retrieval. But then, too, there are no final answers.”

And yet people keep searching, sifting through the sands of time for traces to the past. They continue looking, in dank archives and distant oceans, against all odds of discovery. We search because we must, because in every direction, stretching back to the beginning of human history, is the irresistible possibility that we might yet find a strange new sliver of who we were, and better understand what we have become.

Source : http://www.theatlantic.com/

Auhtor : 

When the world shifted from desktop to smartphones, one thing didn't change: the existence of a screen on both devices.

The screen shrunk, but it remained the medium through which we interact with computers.

For Google, that meant its core online advertising business — visible search ads on a webpage — remained intact and lucrative.

Today, Google may be at the beginning of a new shift — one toward artificially intelligent virtual assistants, in which we use our voice to interact with technology instead of our eyes.

The problem with voice assistants is they don't have a screen on which to display ads.

And analysts have noticed. On the last earnings call for Alphabet, Google's parent company, analysts repeatedly asked Google CEO Sundar Pichai whether voice searches would be harder for the company to monetize with ads. Pichai didn't have a specific answer, although he reassured investors that he believed the new medium would expand Google's business.

Virtual assistants, which are basically voice-activated mini computers, are becoming increasingly intelligent and accessible. A spokesperson for Google told Business Insider "mobile voice searches have tripled in the past two years," between 2014 and 2015.

Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, and Google's Assistant are competing to become the most intelligent digital helpers in the virtual assistant race.

The hardware surrounding this technology is expanding, too — Amazon and Google have each released a mini Wi-Fi speaker for the home. You can tell the Amazon Echo or Google Home to play music, look up recipe ideas, find local restaurants, and do a variety of other tasks.

The side effect of all of this is that in the short term, the available real estate for ads will shrink. You could insert sponsored suggestions into a voice assistant's answers, but it would never offer as many ads as a Google search results page.

It's a side effect that analysts want to know more about.

Brian Nowak, Morgan Stanley's internet analyst, asked Pichai on the earnings call to talk about what the company might need to put in place to "monetize search in a voice world as well as you do in a phone or desktop world."

Pichai responded without directly answering the question, saying "we are in very early days," that one team "talked about" ways to integrate third parties, and that he thinks "we will evolve it a lot in the coming years."

Peter Stabler, a senior research analyst at Wells Fargo, asked Pichai if voice queries are "much more skewed to less commercial activity"?

Pichai said that instead of replacing search on desktop and mobile, voice search provides an additional way for people to interact with Google. "The sum total of all of this: It expanded the pie," he said.

Google HomeGoogle Home Google

While voice search might indeed expand the pie, history shows that legacy media businesses are often vulnerable to new media tech.

The newspaper business has struggled to adapt to the internet. Many newspapers have closed, and entirely new digital news organizations have flourished in a business once dominated by paper products. Similarly, the television business is fighting fiercely against video-on-demand over the internet.

From that perspective, screen-based search starts to look like a legacy media business, and voice-based search like a vast, open arena with no dominant players. That is exactly the kind of market that new tech startups seek to disrupt.

Google, of course, has a track record of solving complex problems and monetizing products. Four years ago, there were worries it might stumble on the transition from desktop search to mobile search. In 2012, the company actually warned that mobile was hurting revenue growth. Since then, Google has gone from strength to strength, and it remains the dominant search engine on mobile screens.

Google is no doubt thinking about these issues already and developing plans to enhance its dominance. But until those plans are unveiled, these are the three questions analysts would really like Pichai to answer:

  • How big a slice of consumers' internet time will voice search take?
  • Will that slice be big enough to significantly reduce the number of searches done on mobile and desktop screens?
  • How easy is it to generate revenue from voice assistants?

Source : http://www.businessinsider.com/

Author : Hannah Roberts

Every year, Americans spend at least $20 billion on unnecessary medical visits in the US. This is one of the drivers behind the spiraling cost of health care, which is predicted to soar to $5.5 trillion by 2024. The last thing you’d imagine is that the internet would have anything to do with this. But guess again.

Medical doctors are already aware of the connection, because they see it every day. Patients arrive at offices and clinics with a “Google stack,” as it’s sometimes called: a pile of print-outs from the online research they’ve done that has led them to form their own amateur medical opinion.

Seventy-two percent of Americans search for health information online, according to a 2013 Pew study. About 35% search for diagnostic information, and of those who attempt to self-diagnose, just over half proceed to make an appointment with a medical professional to talk about what they found online. In June 2016, Google reported that roughly 1% the site’s searches are related to medical symptoms.

For a number of reasons, most medical professionals aren’t too happy about the self-diagnosis trend. It isn’t simply a matter of loss of control or an undermining of their authority though online medical searches—it can mess with the diagnostic process, because the results can suggest rare or morbid conditions to patients, which in turn can prompt the appearance of new “symptoms.” You search online for “sore throat,” for instance, and find yourself engrossed and horrified by descriptions of esophageal cancer. Your anxiety escalates.


Psychologists have studied suggestibility for decades. After reading or hearing about illnesses and their symptoms, humans can often imagine they are sick when they are not. Even when symptoms don’t present themselves, learning about rare and terminal disorders can result in health anxiety—worry, agitation, and nervousness over a perceived illness—which also impacts the number of annual unnecessary doctor visits.

The increase in reported health anxiety is now significant enough to have a new name.

“Cyberchondria” was first coined in a 2001 BBC News report and later validated in a 2003 article in Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. A groundbreaking study in 2009 by Ryen White and Eric Horvitz, two pioneering research scientists at Microsoft, used data analytics to establish the relationship between online medical searches and the heightened incidence of health-related anxiety.

In a study of 40 million searches—10,000 of them manually analyzed—they were able to demonstrate that searchers progressed from reading about normal complaints to looking at rare and serious medical conditions. In a companion survey of 515 individuals, nine out of 10 respondents said they’d conducted an online search for symptoms of a common medical condition that led them to review a more serious illness. One in five said this happened to them “frequently.”

“The web has the potential to increase anxieties of people who have little or no medical training,” White and Horvitz concluded, “especially when web search is employed as a diagnostic procedure.” Now, seven years later, even Google admits that “health content on the web can be difficult to navigate, and tends to lead people from mild symptoms to scary and unlikely conditions, which can cause unnecessary anxiety and stress.”

Admitting there’s a problem is one step. But fixing it is another. I have been involved in a dozen different research silos in the past decade—studying everything from cyberchondria to cybercrime—and the one thing I have observed over and over again is that human behavior is often amplified and accelerated online. We see examples of this escalation in everything from trolling to cyberbullying, cyberstalking to online sex offending. I believe this is caused by an almost predictable mathematical multiplier: the cyber effect, which is the E = mc2 of this century.

Anxiety means more doctor visits and crowded waiting rooms—but it also means a rise in risk. The more often you visit a doctor and present with plausible symptoms, the more intrusive procedures you are likely to face in order to investigate the likely (or unlikely) cause.


That risk is significant. The third-most-common cause of death in the US, after heart disease and cancer, is “iatrogenic effect,” a blanket term that can refer to an unfortunate drug side effect or interaction, a surgical instrument malfunction, physician negligence, medical error, pathogens in the treatment room, or simple bad luck. According to activist and toxicologist John James, who lost his son due to what he believes was a careless medical mistake in a Texas hospital in 2002, there has been a four-fold increase in iatrogenic deaths in the US between 1999 and 2013. This would appear to follow the growth of the internet.

The internet offers so many advantages, but these pluses are increasingly offset by serious problems. Here are some solutions:

  • Creating safer and more-intelligent search protocols for medical queries, so that access to health information doesn’t result in unnecessary anxiety—and consequences.
  • Rethinking media coverage and TV commercials, which can also fuel health anxiety and send people rushing online to self-diagnose.
  • Reforming medical malpractice protocols to discourage unnecessary testing and exploratory investigative procedures.

It’s time for medical ethics to migrate online. The question is: Can Dr. Google abide by one of the main tenets of the Hippocratic oath, which doctors swear to at the beginning of their medical practice? Primum non nocere—”First, do no harm.”

Author: Dr. Mary Aiken

Source:  http://qz.com

Tuesday, 22 November 2016 07:34

How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work

Chances are good that, at some time in your life, you've taken a time management class, read about it in books, and tried to use an electronic or paper-based day planner to organize, prioritize and schedule your day. "Why, with this knowledge and these gadgets," you may ask, "do I still feel like I can't get everything done I need to?"

The answer is simple. Everything you ever learned about managing time is a complete waste of time because it doesn't work.

Before you can even begin to manage time, you must learn what time is. A dictionary defines time as "the point or period at which things occur." Put simply, time is when stuff happens.

There are two types of time: clock time and real time. In clock time, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. All time passes equally. When someone turns 50, they are exactly 50 years old, no more or no less.

In real time, all time is relative. Time flies or drags depending on what you're doing. Two hours at the department of motor vehicles can feel like 12 years. And yet our 12-year-old children seem to have grown up in only two hours.

Which time describes the world in which you really live, real time or clock time?

The reason time management gadgets and systems don't work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time. Clock time is irrelevant. You don't live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time, a world in which all time flies when you are having fun or drags when you are doing your taxes.

The good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage. It's time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around "not having enough time," or today not being "the right time" to start a business or manage your current business properly.

There are only three ways to spend time: thoughts, conversations and actions. Regardless of the type of business you own, your work will be composed of those three items.

As an entrepreneur, you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do get a say on how much time you will spend on them and how much time you will spend on the thoughts, conversations and actions that will lead you to success. 

Practice the following techniques to become the master of your own time:

  1. Carry a schedule and record all your thoughts, conversations and activities for a week. This will help you understand how much you can get done during the course of a day and where your precious moments are going. You'll see how much time is actually spent producing results and how much time is wasted on unproductive thoughts, conversations and actions.

  2. Any activity or conversation that's important to your success should have a time assigned to it. To-do lists get longer and longer to the point where they're unworkable. Appointment books work. Schedule appointments with yourself and create time blocks for high-priority thoughts, conversations, and actions. Schedule when they will begin and end. Have the discipline to keep these appointments.
  3. Plan to spend at least 50 percent of your time engaged in the thoughts, activities and conversations that produce most of your results.

  4. Schedule time for interruptions. Plan time to be pulled away from what you're doing. Take, for instance, the concept of having "office hours." Isn't "office hours" another way of saying "planned interruptions?"

  5. Take the first 30 minutes of every day to plan your day. Don't start your day until you complete your time plan. The most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.

  6. Take five minutes before every call and task to decide what result you want to attain. This will help you know what success looks like before you start. And it will also slow time down. Take five minutes after each call and activity to determine whether your desired result was achieved. If not, what was missing? How do you put what's missing in your next call or activity?

  7. Put up a "Do not disturb" sign when you absolutely have to get work done.

  8. Practice not answering the phone just because it's ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Disconnect instant messaging. Don't instantly give people your attention unless it's absolutely crucial in your business to offer an immediate human response. Instead, schedule a time to answer email and return phone calls.

  9. Block out other distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media unless you use these tools to generate business.

  10. Remember that it's impossible to get everything done. Also remember that odds are good that 20 percent of your thoughts, conversations and activities produce 80 percent of your results.

How to Manage Time With 10 Tips That Work (Infographic)

Source : https://www.entrepreneur.com

Author : Joe Mathews, Don Debolt and Deb Percival

Bing Search has been bringing in innovative features lately and the latest one is the save search option. While it is indeed helpful to have the world at your tips with the Internet the ability to save/bookmark videos and other stuff for future usage is something that will go a long way in helping users.

Bing has done exactly that with its ‘My Saves’ search feature that will allow you to store video, images and shopping searches that you found on Bing and later let you view the same on a PC or Mobile device provided that you are logged on to the same account.

Bing My Save feature

Microsoft demoed the feature by taking the instance of a typical search that one would make on Thanksgiving holiday, ‘best ways to cook a turkey’ and while this turns up a ton of videos that you see.

By using My Saves searching feature you can actually hover on the video result and click ‘Save.’ The feature records your exact location and preference in the search and lets you head over to the same without the need to navigate further. All the items are archived in the ‘My Saves’ which is somewhat similar to the My Documents folder in Windows.

The same feature is extrapolated for image search if you like a certain image while searching for your exotic holiday destination, simply hover on it and save. Then you can go to the image source and also check the other details of the article. This is pretty as compared to opening up an image in a new tab or even Bookmarking the entire website.

The shopping results are yet another innovative feature that is mention worthy. So here is what Bing does, the search page displays a ‘See shopping results’ page and clicking on this will filter your results to the images of the products across the search and also lets you save the same. Once your decision is made feel free to delete the saved items.


Bing is coming up with new features regularly and hopefully, this new My Search feature will help the search engine combat with the likes of Google web search engine.

Author:  MahitHuilgol@TWC

Source:  http://news.thewindowsclub.com

Founder of the dominant Chinese search engine urges Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs and coders to set up shop in China

Software coders, engineers and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are welcomed in China if they are put off by the anti-immigration comments espoused by the president-elect of the United States, said Baidu Inc’s founder and chairman Robin Li.

Stephen Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News and strategy adviser to Donald Trump, noted during a November 2015 interview with Trump on the website’s Sirius XM radio talk show that two-thirds or three-quarters of Silicon Valley’s CEOs are from South Asia or from Asia, according to a Washington Post report this week.

“I hope these migrants would come to China, so that the country can play a bigger role in the world’s innovations,” Li said on Friday during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen. “Many entrepreneurs have said that they are worried that Trump’s victory will hurt creativity in the US.”

China, home to the world’s largest Internet-using population and biggest number of smartphone users, is throwing its doors open to attract talent and capital to help give the country a leg up in technology.

Interested technologists and entrepreneurs will have to contend with China’s “cyberspace sovereignty,” espoused by president Xi Jinping last year in Wuzhen and reiterated this year by the Communist Party’s propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, an unambiguous affirmation of Beijing’s tight grip on censorship and control of the Internet.


Still, the country’s size and growth pace offer rewards for entrepreneurs who are willing to live without accessing Facebook, Twitter, Google, or websites including The New York Times, and the South China Morning Post. Baidu, operator of the dominant Internet search engine in China, owes almost all its revenue to the country’s advertisers and users.

“China is the largest internet market in the world, and it’s also the fastest-growing market,” Li said. “I hope more talent comes to China, and we can embrace entrepreneurship together.”

Along with larger peers Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group -- which owns the South China Morning Post -- Baidu is at the forefront of China’s push to harness artificial intelligence to drive its business growth.

This week, Baidu showed off a fleet of 18 self-driving cars in Wuzhen, demonstrating its ability to power vehicles using its AI technology.

The lack of talents in the field has been a bottleneck that’s stumped the industry’s progress, analysts said.

There’s urgent demand for engineers specialising in artificial intelligence in China, but the current education system is unable to churn out enough talent, said Hao Jian, chief consultant at online recruiter Zhaopin.com

“China’s college training is unable to catch up with the changes in the Internet sector, forcing many companies to look overseas for talent,” he said.

Author:  Phoenix Kwong

Source:  http://www.scmp.com/

Artificial islands above water, and nuclear submarines below

As tensions mount in the South China Sea, China has deployed its first operational nuclear-armed submarines in the undisputed Chinese waters on Hainan Island, which could pose an even greater danger to security in the region, Malcolm Cook writes.

The ripples of unease over China’s actions in the South China Sea are being felt across the world, but an even greater threat could lie beneath the ocean.

The decisions to rapidly build a number of large, military-grade artificial islands in the disputed Spratly islands and to enhance Chinese military activity on Woody Island in the Paracels have raised concerns about China’s long-term intentions in Southeast Asia and beyond.

Taiwan was the first to raise the alarm over Woody Island, the European Union was critical, and ASEAN – a consensus-based organisation not known for bluntness – adopted the sharpest language yet,.  There are signs that Malaysia, long seen as the quietest, most diplomatic Southeast Asian disputant in the South China Sea, may also push back against China and work more closely with fellow disputants the Philippines and Vietnam.

These increasingly vocal concerns in Southeast Asia are grounded in three deep strategic fears. Firstly,  that China is seeking to control the features and waters within the nine (sometimes 10)-dash line that covers over 80 per cent of the sea that links maritime Southeast Asia to each other and the rest of the world.

China’s current actions are also perceived as a worrying harbinger for how the country will act in the future as its power asymmetries with the “peripheral” states of Southeast Asia grow, and its power asymmetry with the United States reduces.


In addition, the South China Sea is or risks becoming a major arena of US-China strategic competition, undermining Southeast Asian states’ influence, autonomy and security, and ASEAN centrality and unity. This neuralgic fear was given voice in the Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs’ sharp response to the US October 2015 freedom of navigation operation in the Spratlys.

To borrow a polar maritime analogy, China’s artificial islands may be the proverbial tips of a major iceberg where the real threat lurks below. There are signs that the artificial islands are also there to support growing Chinese submarine activities, which should deepen existing fears.

China has deployed its first operational nuclear armed submarines (SSBNs) on Hainan Island in the undisputed Chinese waters of the South China Sea. Yet, for this nuclear capability to pose a threat to the US mainland and make Chinese nuclear deterrence credible, these SSBNs will have to sail the breadth of the northern South China Sea and access the Western Pacific, most likely through the Luzon Strait between the northern Philippines and southern Taiwan. Similarly, to escape to the safer, less congested waters of the Indian Ocean, these less-than-stealthy SSBNs would have to sail the length of the South China Sea and exit through the Straits of Malacca, or further south through Indonesia’s Sunda Strait.

The deployment of China’s sea-based nuclear strike capability on Hainan Island changes the strategic significance of the South China Sea in a way that aggravates Southeast Asian fears. For China to protect its most important, expensive and vulnerable asset in its military rivalry with the US, China will need to have much more confidence in its ability to control the South China Sea. The artificial islands and their clear military uses could well be part of an extended bastion strategy to defend these SSBNs.

The US now has a vital homeland defence interest in being able to track these Chinese submarines in the South China Sea in times of non-conflict, and block them from the Western Pacific in other times.

The docking of US hunter killer submarines in January at Subic Bay in the Philippines is a sign of heightened interest. The US-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, now that it has passed muster with the Philippine Supreme Court, will significantly revive the US-Philippine alliance in ways that benefit this US interest. The agreements with Singapore and Malaysia over supporting US P-8 flights also align with this heightened American interest.

Japanese submarines and anti-submarine warfare assets are a major feature of the military side of Japan’s ongoing rebalance to Southeast Asia. A Japanese submarine will visit the Philippines in April, the first such visit in 15 years, and two of the escort ships are then scheduled to make a historic visit to Vietnam’s Cam Rahn Bay. Last year, Japanese P-3C surveillance planes with anti-submarine warfare capabilities participated in bilateral exercises with the Philippines off the coast of Palawan, with Tokyo encouraging Manila to purchase some. While submarines were the big winners (in announcement terms) in Australia’s 2009 defence white paper, anti-submarine warfare capabilities more broadly are in the recently launched 2016 defence white paper, a document that stressed Australia’s enduring security interests in the South China Sea to Beijing’s ire.

Chinese military actions in the South China Sea above and below the waves are turning the whole South China Sea into a major arena of US-China strategic and military rivalry. China is seeking greater control over the waters and land features it claims, while the active US interest, and that of its allies, including the Philippines, in countering China’s military actions is growing. China’s sovereignty-challenging actions also are putting greater pressure on the Southeast Asian states with maritime boundary disputes with China, and increasing their demands for ASEAN to do more. The Philippines was widely criticised in the region in 2012 for taking China to court over their South China Sea dispute, siding closer with the US, and demanding ASEAN take a stronger stance. Today, these steps look less reckless and more prescient.

Source : policyforum.net

Author : Malcolm Cook

Google boasts that its latest update to Google Translate has given it the biggest leap of the past decade in natural language translation.

Google Translate might not be as good as humans at translating language, but the search giant's recent work using neural networks to improve speech recognition and computer vision has made it hard to beat in machine translation.

The latest update to Google Translate utilizes Google's Neural Machine Translation (NMT) system for translating phrases, which is rolling out to eight language pairs.

Google actually announced NMT in September in a paper describing how it's using neural networks to close the gap between human and machine translation. However, until now it had only switched on NMT for Chinese to English translations.

The system still makes some mistakes, such as dropping words or failing to understand a person's name, but it has allowed Google to cut errors by 55 to 85 percent in several languages.

It also improved Translate's ability for contextual translation by analyzing a phrase or paragraph rather than a single word to reconstruct a more grammatically correct and natural translation.

Google has now rolled out neural machine translation for eight language pairs "to and from English and French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Turkish". The feature is enabled in Google Search, as well as in the Translate app and website.

These language pairs cover 35 percent of Google Translate queries, but Google plans to eventually enable NMT support for 103 languages.

"With this update, Google Translate is improving more in a single leap than we've seen in the past 10 years combined," Google Translate product lead Barak Turovsky said.

Turovsky also notes that developers can also access its Google Cloud Platform Translation API to give their apps some of the features that enabled NMT.

Just like Microsoft, Google is betting the future of computing lies in machine learning and to woo new enterprise customers to its cloud platform, it announced the new Cloud Jobs API to help business match recruits with career openings.

Google also announced its new Google Cloud Machine Learning Group would be headed up top machine-learning researchers, Stanford professor Fei-Fei Lie, and Jia Li, formerly a top exec at Snapchat.

Author:   Liam Tung

Source:  http://www.zdnet.com/


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