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Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind

December 3, 2014 Armenia, Technology No Comments
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Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain’s pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence, the BBC reports.He told the BBC:”The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.But others are less gloomy about AI’s prospects.The theoretical physicist, who has the motor neurone disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), is using a new system developed by Intel to speak.Machine learning experts from the British company Swiftkey were also involved in its creation. Their technology, already employed as a smartphone keyboard app, learns how the professor thinks and suggests the words he might want to use next.Prof Hawking says the primitive forms of artificial intelligence developed so far have already proved very useful, but he fears the consequences of creating something that can match or surpass humans.”It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate,” he said.”Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”But others are less pessimistic.”I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized,” said Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot.Cleverbot’s software learns from its past conversations, and has gained high scores in the Turing test, fooling a high proportion of people into believing they are talking to a human.Mr Carpenter says we are a long way from having the computing power or developing the algorithms needed to achieve full artificial intelligence, but believes it will come in the next few decades.”We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” he says.But he is betting that AI is going to be a positive force.Prof Hawking is not alone in fearing for the future.In the short term, there are concerns that clever machines capable of undertaking tasks done by humans until now will swiftly destroy millions of jobs.In the longer term, the technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.In his BBC interview, Prof Hawking also talks of the benefits and dangers of the internet.He quotes the director of GCHQ’s warning about the net becoming the command centre for terrorists: “More must be done by the internet companies to counter the threat, but the difficulty is to do this without sacrificing freedom and privacy.”He has, however, been an enthusiastic early adopter of all kinds of communication technologies and is looking forward to being able to write much faster with his new system.But one aspect of his own tech – his computer generated voice – has not changed in the latest update.Prof Hawking concedes that it’s slightly robotic, but insists he didn’t want a more natural voice.”It has become my trademark, and I wouldn’t change it for a more natural voice with a British accent,” he said.”I’m told that children who need a computer voice, want one like mine.” 

Downing Street presses ISPs over anti-terror measures

November 15, 2014 Armenia, Australia, Technology No Comments
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The UK’s major internet service providers (ISPs) are to introduce new measures to tackle online extremism, the BBC reports quoting Downing Street as saying.
The ISPs had “committed” to strengthening their filters and adding a “public reporting button” to flag terrorism-related material.
But the ISPs told the BBC that no specific agreement had been made.
Campaigners called for transparency over what would be blocked.
Prime Minster David Cameron said technology companies had a “social responsibility” to deal with jihadists.
Mr Cameron told the Australian Parliament in Canberra that he was putting technology companies under pressure to deal with jihadist material.
“In the UK we are pushing them to do more, including strengthening filters, improving reporting mechanisms and being more proactive in taking down this harmful material,” he said.
“We are making progress but there is further to go. This is their social responsibility – and we expect them to live up to it.”
The proposed measures are believed to have stemmed from a meeting held last month to discuss ways in which technology firms could help tackle online extremism.
In a briefing note, No 10 said the ISPs had subsequently committed to filtering out extremist and terrorist material, and hosting a button that members of the public could use to report content.
It would work in a similar fashion to the reporting button that allows the public to flag instances of child sexual exploitation on the internet.

Nigol Bezjian’s Ceaseless Search for Truth and Discovery — An Interview

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17:52, November 14, 2014

By Christian Garbis

Filmmaker Nigol Bezjian is a master storyteller who conveys pathos and lust for life, introspection and emotional extremes of joy and sorrow in one sweep.

Born in Aleppo, Syria in 1955, Bezjian immigrated with his family to Boston in 1974. He earned a BFA in Cinema Studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and then further pursued his passion for filmmaking at the UCLA School of Film, Theatre and Television where he graduated with a MFA in Film Producing, Writing and Directing. 

Prime Minister Claims Annual 25% Growth in Armenia’s IT Sector

November 13, 2014 Armenia, Business, Technology No Comments
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15:20, November 12, 2014

Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan today received Mario Mazzola, the Cisco Systems President for Business Development and Laureate of the 2014 Global IT Award of the President of the Republic of Armenia.

The prime minister congratulated Mazzola and stated that it was an honor for the Armenian government to recognize the achievements of one of the world’s most outstanding representatives of the IT (information technology) sector.

Abrahamyan revealed that strengthening the IT industry is one of the government’s top priorities in order to increase Armenia’s global competitiveness in the field. IT is the fastest growing sector in Armenia with a recorded annual growth of 20-25 percent and has the potential for additional gains.

Ireland insists it can still be hi-tech hub despite axing ‘double Irish’ loophole

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As 22,000 tech entrepreneurs, inventors and investors converged on Dublin for the city’s Web Summit last week, one big question threatened to bring the whole digital bonanza down to earth, The Guardian reports.After the Ireland moved last month to close a lucrative tax loophole, former Apple chief executive John Sculley told the summit that the country risked losing the “edge” that has helped it become the European headquarters of US technology giants including Apple and Facebook. “There is a lot of talent in Ireland so I don’t think it will be an insurmountable problem but it will take the edge off, if tax advantages do go away,” he said.The “double Irish” scheme has allowed corporations to save billions by legally moving huge profits at their Irish bases to countries regarded as tax havens. It will be phased out following the 2015 budget – although Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed last week that firms already benefiting from the scheme could continue to operate it until 2020.At the summit – where speakers included Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel, Dropbox founder Drew Houston and actor and angel investor Eva Longoria – bosses of the latest wave of hi-tech companies to come to Ireland were keen to play down the significance of Dublin’s move to end the scheme. Eight software, telecoms and digital media firms announced that they would create 400 new jobs in the republic.The boss of one of them, New Zealander Dr Jock Percy, whose Perseus Telecom provides fibre optics to connect major banks with stock exchanges, said he was encouraged that the Dublin government had decided to maintain its 12.5% corporate tax rate and planned new tax breaks for inventions and innovations minted in Ireland, like the UK’s “patent box” scheme.“Low corporation tax in Ireland is attractive but the double Irish was not even considered or planned for. Instead we were more interested in the fact that there are multilingual skilled workers in Ireland and a pro-business government,” said Percy, whose company’s main base is in Galway.“For us the introduction of a patent-box is much more valuable because our intellectual property, designs and software programs all belong here in Ireland. So getting tax relief for that is fantastic and we are looking forward to that coming in,” he said.Kenny told an audience at the summit that the country had “nothing to fear” from the end of the double Irish scheme. “The end of it will make our country even more attractive for foreign direct investment in the future and there is that transition period for companies already here up to 2020.”Richard Bruton, minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation also dismissed the concerns of Sculley, although he acknowledged the flak Ireland has taken over tax schemes in Brussels and Washington. “Clearly we understand that countries compete on a number of fronts and Ireland has always offered a competitive tax environment,” he said. “We know companies expect that and we will continue to compete very strongly but on a fair basis. There has to be a worldwide consensus to make taxation policy fair across the board.”The 12.5% corporate tax rate, Kenny and Bruton said, would be protected as a cornerstone of Irish fiscal policy.As Kenny and Bruton were speaking, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers signalled that the UK Treasury would decide within weeks if Northern Ireland could set its own corporation tax rate. She promised in a speech to Co-operation Ireland in Belfast that the administration would know soon whether London would hand over control.Political leaders in Stormont have looked on jealously as their southern neighbors continue to use low corporate taxes to attract foreign direct investment and want their own rate set at a level close to the republic’s.Villiers said London was taking the calls to devolve tax powers “very seriously”. It could be a move the republic’s Industrial Development Agency will have to take very seriously too. 

Micro-rockets ‘can destroy chemical weapons’

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A team has developed micro-rockets that can neutralize chemical and biological weapons, the BBC reports.Powered by seawater, the micrometre-sized rockets are capable of degrading agents like anthrax and sarin.The rockets can “swim” in contaminated samples to decompose them, before eventually self-degrading.Published in journal ACS Nano, the team says the technology could also decontaminate environmental waste.”It needs no external stimuli, just expose it to seawater, it then generates a bubble and moves around. In the past, people needed external fuel but here we use seawater as the fuel,” explained Joseph Wang at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), who was involved in developing the rockets.Prof Wang said it could degrade both biological weapons and nerve agents like sarin, commonly used as weapons in the Middle East.”Our rockets can protect against these, faster, cheaper and using less reagents,” he told BBC News.The rocket is made from magnesium coated with titanium dioxide. A small eye-like opening exposes the magnesium which reacts with the seawater causing a “bubble propulsion” effect which powers it forward.This propulsion then enables titanium dioxide to react and break down chemical and biological agents. Titanium dioxide is already known for its amazing ability to break down pollutants. It has previously been used for self-cleaning windows and engineers have even coated cotton with the chemical in an attempt to make clothes clean themselves.The UCSD scientists say that titanium dioxide is also extremely useful for degrading chemical and biological warfare agents. It produces no toxic waste material and does not need chemicals which have toxic by-products.One of the next challenges will be to scale up the project to enable the micro-motors to clear a large area of contaminants.There are broader impacts of the technology too, said Prof Wang. His team are now working on a similar motor which could be used to help treat disease by targeting cancer cells, or it could release drugs inside the body.The project was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, a US government organization.
 

Autopsies without scalpel: pathologists conduct full post-mortem examinations using just CT scan

October 29, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Technology No Comments
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Coming to terms with a loved one’s death can be difficult and this has prompted one British council to offer bereaved families digital autopsies for free, the Daily Mail reports.
A 1.2 million facility offering digital post-mortem examinations at no cost is the first of its kind and will open at the end of November.
It will allow pathologists to conduct fully analyze dead bodies using a computer mouse instead of a scalpel and the results will be made available almost immediately.
In order to carry out the high-tech autopsy, the body must be scanned. Afterwards, using date form the CT scan, visualization software creates a 3D image that can be manipulated on a computer screen.
The process means that grieving families can understand a loved one’s cause of death without the need for a traditional post-mortem examination.
The technology was created by iGene in Malaysia. The first UK centre was opened in Sheffield last year, but now Sandwell Council has said it will offer the service to families for free from November, at Sandwell Valley Crematorium, in West Bromwich in the West Midlands.
The authority is offering to pick up the 500 tab for all residents who want a digital autopsy – as long as the deceased lived in the borough.
‘It’s distressing enough to lose a loved one, but to then find out that a post-mortem [examination] is necessary can be extremely upsetting,’ said Mahboob Hussain, Sandwell Council’s deputy leader councillor.
‘The digital autopsy is non-invasive and the results are available quickly, which is going to be of real comfort to grieving families.
‘We’re proud to be the first council in the country to work with the private sector to offer this service free of charge to residents.
‘I feel it’s only right that bereaved families in Sandwell have the option to choose this incredible new technology without worrying about the extra cost.’
Professor Peter Gaines, consultant radiologist for iGene, said that families using its existing sites in Yorkshire are already successfully avoiding a traditional post mortem.
‘We have scanned a number of cases at our Sheffield and Bradford sites, some referred by the coroners and others by families coming to us directly for peace of mind,’ he said.
‘We have been able to quickly establish the cause of death and allow the body to be released to the family for burial untouched.
‘Digital Autopsy stands to revolutionize centuries old post mortem practices, treating the dead with the same respect as the living and taking away one additional source of much anguish for their bereaved family.’
iGene is in discussions with a further 14 local authorities to open further centers across the UK.
Their 3million facility which opened in Sheffield last year was the first of a 50million network of centers that will be operational across Britain by the end of 2015.

‘Holy Grail’ of timepieces: Gold pocket watch so complex it features stars above Manhattan is set to sell for over £10m

October 21, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Technology No Comments
Armenian News

A watch said to be the ‘Holy Grail’ of timepieces and one of the most complicated ever made is set to go under the hammer for £10million next month.The Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece, made by famed watchmaker Patek Philippe, is the most complex ever produced without the use of computer technology.The gold pocket watch was first commissioned in 1925 by banker Henry Graves Junior, who is considered the greatest watch collector of the 20th century, and was eventually delivered to him in 1933.The watch was also calibrated so that Mr Graves could tell the time based on the exact position of the sun at his New York home.The watch features 24 horological complications – or features. They include a perpetual calendar, moon phases, a power reserve and an exact replica of the night sky as seen from Central Park in Manhattan, showing the exact position and magnitude of stars across the Milky Way.Tim Bourne, Sotheby’s Worldwide Head of Watches, and Daryn Schnipper, Chairman of Sotheby’s Watch Division, said of the watch: ‘The list of superlatives which can be attached to this icon of the 20th century is truly extraordinary.’Indisputably the ‘Holy Grail’ of watches, The Henry Graves Supercomplication combines the Renaissance ideal of the unity of beauty and craftsmanship with the apogee of science.’The Graves watch retained the title of the world’s most complicated watch for 56 years and even then was only surpassed by technicians working with the aid of computer-assisted machines.In 1999 Sotheby’s sold the Graves watch for £6.8 million, breaking the record for the most expensive timepiece ever sold at auction.Next month, to coincide with Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary, the watch is again being auctioned in Geneva by Sotheby’s, who expect it to sell for over £10 million.A number of other Patek Philippe and Rolex watches will also be sold.Henry Graves was the son of Henry Graves Senior, a founder and partner in the Maxwell & Graves baking firm, and made millions of dollars in banking and the rail roads.As well as being an avid art collector, Mr Graves had a passion for fine watches, and was a patron of Patek Philippe.It was a competition with car manufacturer James Ward Packard, that saw him commission the Supercomplication pocket watch.In 1927 Mr Packard commissioned what he thought was going to be the most complicated watch ever made only be trumped by Mr Graves who spent almost five times as much having his own custom watch created.After Mr Graves death in 1953, the watch was held in the Museum of Time near Chicago from 1968 until December 1999 when it was sold by Sotheby’s to anonymous bidder in New York.Until Sotheby’s again announced it had the famed timepiece for sale, it had been on display at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva. 
 
 
 

Many dead in collapse at South Korea 4Minute concert

October 18, 2014 Diaspora, Technology No Comments
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At least 16 people have been killed and 11 injured in an accident at a pop concert in Seongnam, south of Seoul in South Korea, the BBC reports, quoting officials as saying.
They say a ventilation grate collapsed and a group of concert-goers fell 10 metres (33ft) into an underground parking area.
The crowds had been watching an outdoor performance by the popular Korean girl band 4Minute and other bands.
The victims climbed on top of the grate to get a better view of the show.
Rescue workers warn that the death toll may rise.
“Twelve people were killed at the scene, two others died while they were being rushed to the hospital. Others are assumed to have passed away while receiving medical treatment,” a local fire official was quoted as saying by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
About 700 people were at the concert, part of a local festival being held at Pangyo Techno Valley, a multi-purpose complex for technology firms.
In the dense crowd, 20-30 people climbed on a grate over the deep ventilation shaft. Under their weight the grate gave way and the group fell through.
“I’m a bit shaken up but I’m OK. I was literally 20 ft away from where it happened. None of us knew what had happened. I was queuing up at the beer tent at the time. The concert had just started,” Ross Gibson, who lives in Seoul, told the BBC.
Another eyewitness told YTN news channel: “There was a sudden, loud screaming, and when I turned it looked as if people were being sucked down into a hole.”
The BBC’s Steve Evans in Seoul says the immediate task was to save the lives of the injured but that the accident may intensify a debate in South Korea about safety standards.
After the Sewol ferry sank six months ago, with the loss of more than 300 lives, many alleged that the country’s regulations had not kept pace with its rapid economic development.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

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Commentary

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article