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Boston Herald


Artificial intelligence panel urges US to boost tech skills amid China's rise

Boston Herald

An artificial intelligence commission led by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is urging the U.S. to boost its AI skills to counter China, including by pursuing "AI-enabled" weapons -- something that Google itself has shied away from on ethical grounds. Schmidt and current executives from Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon are among the 15 members of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which released its final report to Congress on Monday. "To win in AI we need more money, more talent, stronger leadership," Schmidt said Monday. The report says that machines that can "perceive, decide, and act more quickly" than humans and with more accuracy are going to be deployed for military purposes -- with or without the involvement of the U.S. and other democracies. It warns against unchecked use of autonomous weapons but expresses opposition to a global ban. It also calls for "wise restraints" on the use of AI tools such as facial recognition that can be used for mass surveillance.


Fall II volleyball learns from first fall session, makes rules modifications

Boston Herald

With the knowledge gained from a Fall I campaign in the books, the Fall II volleyball season that got underway this week will look a little different, much to the relief of the MIAA Volleyball Committee that met Tuesday morning. The main change in the rules modifications is the removal of the "COVID line," which restricted players from being within 3 feet of the net, significantly affecting attacking and blocking. "It really did change the game a bit," said Carol Burke, rules interpreter for the committee. "The state medical committee agreed that it really wasn't necessary. They are only there momentarily, and they go. So we were fortunate to eliminate that from the Fall II." Volleyballs will also no longer need to be sanitized after every rally, only after every set.


Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: At some point remote, hybrid learning needs to be 'off the table'

Boston Herald

With health metrics improving and mitigation measures in place across Massachusetts schools, Elementary and Secondary Commissioner Jeff Riley said Tuesday it's time to begin the process of getting more students back into classrooms. Riley, who is set to join Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Secretary James Peyser for a 2 p.m. press conference on education and COVID-19, told Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members that he plans to ask them in March to give him the authority to determine when hybrid and remote school models no longer count for learning hours, as part of a broader plan to return more students to physical school buildings. Riley said he would take a "phased approach to returning students into the classrooms, working closely with state health officials and medical experts." He said his plan would focus on elementary school students first, with the initial goal of having them learning in-person five days a week this April. "At some point, as health metrics continue to improve, we will need to take the remote and hybrid learning models off the table and return to a traditional school format," Riley said.


Baker urges businesses to think about 'future of work' as coronavirus pandemic ends

Boston Herald

Gov. Charlie Baker urged Boston-area business leaders to take a hard look at what the "future of work" will be, particularly around telecommuting, to make sure they don't find themselves at the back end of a "big missed opportunity" as the pandemic ends. "There's clearly been a year's worth of people thinking very differently about how they do their jobs," Baker said during his annual address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. He said state employees tell him they're looking for a flexible situation, sometimes in the office and sometimes out of it. He said the need to rethink the "future of work" applies to state actions, too, like neighborhood development and transportation. "Usually the way we think about the future of work is: where are the jobs going to be, what categories do we need, what kind of training do we need to make available -- that kind of stuff," the governor said.


Lawmakers, administration blow past first major deadline in rollout of new police reform law

Boston Herald

A landmark police reform law passed in December is already stumbling in the State House after lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker this week blew past the first major deadline in the rollout. Dorchester equality activist James Mackey accused lawmakers of getting "too comfortable in their seats" for botching the start. "People advocated, they rallied, they screamed and yelled, they marched for them to pass this and now it's about accountability," Mackey said. "Now its up to us to hold these legislators accountable knowing that they haven't held their end of the bargain." A special legislative commission on law enforcement's use of facial recognition technology was mandated to meet by Monday.


Police reform law deadlines fast-approaching

Boston Herald

A series of fast-approaching deadlines are up next in the newly minted police reform law that's already off to a slow start. Lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker's administration have already failed to meet a Feb.15 convening deadline for a special legislative Commission on Government Use of Facial Recognition Technology. The commission is one of 16 task forces, councils or special legislative commissions created in the bill signed into law in December, all of which carry mandated meeting and reporting deadlines. Senate Judiciary Chairman James Eldridge, who per the law will co-lead the facial surveillance commission and other high-profile commissions slated to study the qualified immunity doctrine and civil service law, said mechanisms exist to extend deadlines. But rather than delay or defer, Eldridge said establishing the various commissions and task forces is "something that we need to focus on, and quickly." March 31: A school resource officer memorandum of understanding review commission must meet.


Spacewalkers complete 4 years of power upgrades for station

Boston Herald

A pair of spacewalking astronauts completed a four-year effort to modernize the International Space Station's power grid on Monday, installing one last battery. Over the weekend, flight controllers in Houston used the space station's big robot arm to replace the last pair of old-style batteries with a single better-quality one. NASA's Mike Hopkins and Victor Glover put the finishing touches on this newest lithium-ion battery to complete a series of spacewalks that began in 2017. Although the spacewalk got started late, Hopkins and Glover hustled through the battery work in under an hour. They also made quick work of camera installations and squeezed in some extra chores.


Ticker: Amazon adds jobs in Boston; Lottery sales, profits rising during pandemic

Boston Herald

Amazon's 2020 hiring spree does not appear to be slowing in the new year with the company announcing 3,000 new jobs in the city in coming years. The hires announced Tuesday will double the workforce in Amazon's Boston tech hub, with new jobs spread across Alexa, Amazon Web Services, Amazon Robotics and Amazon Pharmacy. In its most recent quarter which ended in September, Amazon hired more than 250,000 permanent full-time and part-time workers, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said during a conference call with industry analysts. In October, the start of this quarter, it hired another 100,000. The jobs announced Tuesday in Boston include technology positions in software development, artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as new jobs in product management, human relations, finance and other areas.


JMU snaps Northeastern's conference win streak with 79-72 win

Boston Herald

Milestones can be evasive and winning streaks are fragile. The Northeastern Huskies experienced both with Sunday's 79-72 loss to James Madison at Solomon Court. The Huskies were denied an eighth straight victory since the start of conference play, leaving them one short of the program record set in 2012-13. The setback also prevented NU's 15th-year head coach Bill Coen (249-219) from equaling the program's career record of 250 victories set by Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun from 1972-1986. JMU improved to 7-4 and 1-1.


Behind those dancing robots, scientists had to bust a move

Boston Herald

The man who designed some of the world's most advanced dynamic robots was on a daunting mission: programming his creations to dance to the beat with a mix of fluid, explosive and expressive motions that are almost human. Almost a year and half of choreography, simulation, programming and upgrades that were capped by two days of filming to produce a video running at less than 3 minutes. The clip, showing robots dancing to the 1962 hit "Do You Love Me?" by The Contours, was an instant hit on social media, attracting more than 23 million views during the first week. It shows two of Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck. Boston Dynamics founder and chairperson Marc Raibert says what the robot maker learned was far more valuable.