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Uber cuts 15 percent of Postmates' workforce

Engadget

Now that Uber owns Postmates, it's apparently ready to cut workers it believes are superfluous. Uber has confirmed to the New York Times that it's laying off about 185 people at Postmates, or about 15 percent of the delivery company's staff. Most of the executives are leaving, including founder and CEO Bastian Lehmann. There may be more departures in the months ahead as contracts expire and others are asked to leave. The layoffs come as Uber melds its Eats platform with Postmates.


Hitting the Books: AI doctors and the dangers tiered medical care

Engadget

Healthcare is a human right, however, nobody said all coverage is created equal. Artificial intelligence and machine learning systems are already making impressive inroads into the myriad fields of medicine -- from IBM's Watson: Hospital Edition and Amazon's AI-generated medical records to machine-formulated medications and AI-enabled diagnoses. But in the excerpt below from Frank Pasquale's New Laws of Robotics we can see how the promise of faster, cheaper, and more efficient medical diagnoses generated by AI/ML systems can also serve as a double-edged sword, potentially cutting off access to cutting-edge, high quality care provided by human doctors. Excerpted from New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI by Frank Pasquale, published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. We might once have categorized a melanoma simply as a type of skin cancer.


Democrats ask Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to rework their suggestion algorithms

Engadget

A group of more than 30 democratic lawmakers led by Representatives Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) are calling on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to make substantive changes to their recommendation algorithms. In three separate letters addressed to the CEOs of those companies, the group makes a direct link to the January 6th US Capitol attack and the part those platforms played in radicalizing the individuals who took part in the uprising. "On Wednesday, January 6th the United States Capitol was attacked by a violent, insurrectionist mob radicalized in part in a digital echo chamber that your company designed, built and maintained," the letter addressed to Google and YouTube CEOs Sundar Pichai and Susan Wojcicki says. A letter from some Congress members to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki flexes research on how YouTube's algorithms have promoted conspiracy theories and political extremism. Citing the Capitol attacks, they request changes to its recommendations systems.


The best deals we found this week: $40 off Google's Pixel 4a 5G and more

Engadget

This week brought a return of some holiday sale prices, plus a few deals that are even better than those we saw late last year. Google's Pixel 4a 5G fell to a new record-low price, while the 8th-generation iPad remains on sale for $299. If you want to up your smart-home game, August's WiFi smart lock is more than $65 off and some Beats headphones are 50 percent off, too. Here are the best deals from this week that you can still get today. One of Google's newest smartphones, the Pixel 4a 5G is down to $459, or $40 off its normal price.


Otter launches live transcription for Google Meet

Engadget

Otter, which uses AI to offer a low-cost transcription service, is bringing its smarts to Google Meet, letting users access live notes and captions. All a user needs to do is install a Chrome extension, which will open up a live notes panel which will record what is said while people are saying it. The company already offered a similar service to Zoom chats, but now offers an alternative to Google's baked-in live caption service. Otter's boast is that its interactive, editable transcripts are a great tool for collaboration when the meeting is finished. In the announcement, Otter says that tools like this make it easy to record meetings to avoid confusion later, but also help folks with accessibility requirements.


Google is investigating an AI researcher over the handling of sensitive data

Engadget

Google is investigating an artificial intelligence researcher after it detected that "an account had exfiltrated thousands of files" and shared them externally. Margaret Mitchell, a co-lead of the Ethical AI unit, has been locked out of Google's corporate systems over the matter. But apparently they've told her she will be locked out for at least a few days. The investigation follows the acrimonious exit last month of another prominent AI researcher, Timnit Gebru, who said Mitchell has been told that she'll be locked out for a few days. According to an Axios source, Mitchell used automated scripts to search her messages for examples of discriminatory treatment toward Gebru.


August's WiFi smart lock hits all-time low of $183 at Amazon

Engadget

August's 4th-generation WiFi smart lock is one of its best yet, and now you can get it at a more affordable price. Amazon has discounted the silver model to $183.49, down from its usual $250 price. The black version is also on sale, but is only $14.67 off. We've seen the August lock drop as low as $199 in the past, but more frequently it's been discounted to $210, making this one of the best opportunities to buy it to date. Buy August smart lock at Amazon - $183.49


Facebook improves AI photo descriptions for the visually impaired

Engadget

Facebook has long been using AI to describe photos for the visually impaired, but it's stepping up its efforts in 2021. The social media giant has detailed a new version of automatic alternative text (AAT) that promises much more information. Instead of relying on heavily supervised AI learning, Facebook is now using weak supervision based on "billions" of Instagram photos and hashtags. The method lets Facebook expand beyond just 100 concept descriptions to include over 1,200, such as different kinds of food and national monuments. It's also more culturally inclusive -- it can recognize weddings that don't involve white wedding dresses, for example. A new object detection system can also recognize where people are in the frame as well as the number of people in the scene.


The Morning After: LG might get out of the smartphone business

Engadget

In the US, today is Inauguration Day, and as Joe Biden prepares to take the oath as our 46th president, it's worth taking a look back at the discussions four years ago. Back then, the "most tech-savvy" president exited as all eyes turned to Donald Trump trading in his Android Twitter machine for a secure device. We know how things went after that. Donald Trump isn't tweeting anymore (at least not from his main accounts), and the country is struggling through a pandemic. The outgoing president just saw his temporary YouTube ban extended and, in one of his last official acts, pardoned Anthony Levandowski for stealing self-driving car secrets from Google's subsidiary Waymo.


Donald Trump pardons ex-Waymo, Uber engineer Anthony Levandowski

Engadget

Last year Anthony Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of stealing materials from Google, where he was an engineer for its self-driving car efforts before leaving to found a startup that he sold to Uber. The judge said during his sentencing that his theft of documents and emails constituted the "biggest trade secret crime I have ever seen." Now, on the last day of Donald Trump's administration, Trump issued a series of pardons -- the Department of Justice has more information on how those work here -- and commutations that covered people who worked on his campaign like Steve Bannon and Elliott Broidy, as well as Levandowski. A press release from the White House noted tech billionaires Peter Thiel and Palmer Luckey were among those supporting a pardon for Levandowski, and it makes the claim that this engineer "paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good." It also noted that his plea covered only a single charge, omitting mention of the 33 charges he'd been indicted on.