The Washington Post is reporting that the NSA has a simple way to work out if you’re worth hacking or not: it just reads your Google cookies. Leaked slides from an internal presentation reveal that the NSA use the cookies and location data from Google to pinpoint targets for government hacking. The Post explains: According to the documents, the NSA and its British counterpart, GCHQ, are using the small tracking files or “cookies” that advertising networks place on computers to identify people browsing the Internet. The intelligence agencies have found particular use for a part of a Google-specific tracking mechanism known as the “PREF” cookie. These cookies typically don’t contain personal information, such as someone’s name or e-mail address, but they do contain numeric codes that enable Web sites to uniquely identify a person’s browser. In addition to tracking Web visits, this cookie allows NSA to single out an individual’s communications among the sea of Internet data in order to send out software that can hack that person’s computer. The slides say the cookies are used to “enable remote exploitation,” although the specific attacks used by the NSA against targets are not addressed in these documents. It’s not a way of finding suspicious behaviour, then, but a way to home in on someone already under suspicion. Which doesn’t sound as bad as some of the NSA tricks in use, but is still a serious invasion of privacy. — The NSA Reads Your Google Cookies to See if It Should Hack You
At the Wearable Futures conference, London designer and researcher Shamees Aden debuted a running shoe prototype that will put your worn out kicks to shame. The shoes, a conceptual product which he developed with University of Southern Denmark professor Martin Hanczyc, are 3D printed from a synthetic biological material that can repair itself overnight. The running shoes are the product of Aden’s study of protocells. The basic protocell molecules are not themselves alive, but can be combined to create living organisms. Mixing different protocells creates different properties, and allows them to be programmed to behave differently depending on heat, light, and pressure. The shoes’ unique construction allows them to be 3D printed to the exact size of the user’s foot, so they would fit like a second skin. While running, the shoes would react to pressure and movement, providing extra cushioning when needed.
After the run, the shoes would be placed in a jar filled with living liquid protocell. The liquid works almost as a recharger or a reviver, keeping the living organisms in the shoes healthy and helping them rejuvenate. The liquid can also be dyed any color, so the shoes would take on the hue of its liquid protocell charger.
It’s an interesting concept that not only blurs the line between living and non-living organisms, but also pushes the boundaries of 3D printing. According to Aden, the technology is nearly here, and these shoes could become a reality by 2050. — London designer creates 3D-printed, regenerative running shoes from protocells | The Verge
Over the past few years, artificial hands have come a long way in terms of dexterity. They can grasp, shake hands, point, and, usefully, make the “come hither” gesture. Now, researchers at the Cleveland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University have made significant progress in building a prosthetic hand that provides something like a sense of touch. The hand, which you can see put to use in a demonstration in the video above, has 20 sensitive spots that can perceive other objects’ physicality. Implants that connect those spots to nerves in the patients arm have continued to work 18 months after installation, which MIT Technology Review reports, notes is a important milestone since “electrical interfaces to nerve tissue can gradually degrade in performance.”
The new prosthetic is a step towards creating this feedback loop. And it can do more than sense simple contact. Dustin Tyler, of Case Western, can adjust the device to signal different textures. Igor Spetic, who is using the hand in the above video, “says sometimes it feels like he’s touching a ball bearing, other times like he’s brushing against cotton balls, sandpaper, or hair,” according to the Technology Review report.
Thus far, the device has only been tested in the lab, but researchers are hoping that further development and study could bring it to the market within the next decade. — Scientists Develop an Artificial Hand That Can Feel - Rebecca J. Rosen - The Atlantic
Priming people to think about money makes them more likely to cheat, but priming them to think about time seems to strengthen their moral compass, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research, conducted by psychological scientists Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Cassie Mogilner of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, shows that implicitly activating the concept of time reduces cheating behavior by encouraging people to engage in self-reflection.
In the first experiment, 87.5% of the participants primed to think of money cheated on the puzzles, compared to only 66.7% of those participants primed with neutral words. They also cheated to a greater extent, artificially boosting their scores by a greater margin than the other participants.
Thinking about time, on the other hand, seemed to prevent people from cheating: Only 42.4% of the participants primed with the concept of time overstated their performance on the task.
Data from subsequent experiments showed that the link between money and cheating, and between time and cheating, could be explained by self-reflection (or lack thereof).
Priming the concept of time seems to lead people “to notice that how they spend their time sums up to their life as a whole, encouraging them to act in ways they can be proud of when holding up this mirror to who they are,” the researchers write.
While time may be an important tool in keeping us on the straight and narrow, preliminary data collected by Gino and Mogilner suggest that people tend to pay more attention to money.
"These new findings show the benefits of doing just the opposite: thinking about time rather than money," says Gino. "Our results suggest that finding ways to nudge people to reflect on the self at the time of temptation, rather than on the potential rewards they can accrue by cheating, may be an effective way to curb dishonesty." — Money may corrupt, but thinking about time can strengthen morality
The fewer barriers between us and our computers, or the more we can employ instinctual communication techniques and emotions while creating, playing, consuming and interacting, the more difficult it will be to define the line between human and machine.
"Humans have always used games, play and story time to create simulations of important life experiences: it gives us a chance to practice and to vicariously experience new and strange things in a relatively safe environment," Johanna Blakley, director of research at the Norman Lear Centre, tells Wired.co.uk. "The ultimate experience of entertainment is immersion — that moment when we can’t differentiate the real from the fictional. AI attempts to blur that line, and while the tech’s still pretty clumsy, I expect we’ll see the day when we have a very difficult time disentangling the virtual from the real."
In the interim, it makes sense the first inklings of AI appear as VAs on our phones or in Hollywood depictions. We are, as Webb points out “collaborative beings”. We don’t want things to be done automatically — we like to feel as though we’re in control and the VA just makes things run smoother by preempting our needs. This collaborative nature is being undone and interrogated as the trend for the quantified self gains traction — we want to understand ourselves better, have control over our future, but we have to use technology to mediate this. We are learning to collaborate and trust technology with the big questions.
"I think AI won’t be human intelligence — it will be its own own type of intelligence. Maybe we don’t need full on AI; we’d just need it to be slightly smart." — Falling in love with AI virtual assistants: a creepy love affair nearer than you think (Wired UK)