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How to Make Sure Robots Help Us, Not Replace Us

#artificialintelligence

The world needs robots that make life better, not just ones that put people out of work. But business attitudes, government policy, and scientific priorities are geared toward replacing workers rather than complementing and enhancing their skills. That's the bottom line of a report by a task force at MIT that was released today. "It's super easy to make a business case for reducing head count. You can always light up a boardroom" by promising to replace people with robots, says David Autor, an MIT economist and co-chair of the task force, who gave an interview about the report.


New Zealand establishes algorithm charter for government agencies

ZDNet

The New Zealand government has launched a set of standards designed to act as a guideline for government agencies on how to use algorithms. Dubbed as the "first in the world", the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand, according to Minister for Statistics James Shaw, will improve data transparency and accountability, especially when algorithms are being used to process and interpret large amounts of data. "Using algorithms to analyse data and inform decisions does not come without its risks," he said. "It is important, therefore, that people have confidence that these algorithms are being used in a fair, ethical, and transparent way. And that's what this Charter is all about."


Tech-enabled 'terror capitalism' is spreading worldwide. The surveillance regimes must be stopped

The Guardian

When Gulzira Aeulkhan finally fled China for Kazakhstan early last year, she still suffered debilitating headaches and nausea. She didn't know if this was a result of the guards at an internment camp hitting her in the head with an electric baton for spending more than two minutes on the toilet, or from the enforced starvation diet. Maybe it was simply the horror she had witnessed – the sounds of women screaming when they were beaten, their silence when they returned to the cell. Like an estimated 1.5 million other Turkic Muslims, Gulzira had been interned in a "re-education camp" in north-west China. After discovering that she had watched a Turkish TV show in which some of the actors wore hijabs, Chinese police had accused her of "extremism" and said she was "infected by the virus" of Islamism.


Federal agencies are worried face masks may be used to evade facial recognition technology

Daily Mail - Science & tech

The The US Department of Homeland Security is reportedly worried that face coverings will stymie the police's use of facial recognition technology. According to a report from The Intercept, a bulletin drafted by the DHS discusses the effects of widespread use of face coverings in a correspondence with other federal agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 'The potential impacts that widespread use of protective masks could have on security operations that incorporate face recognition systems -- such as video cameras, image processing hardware and software, and image recognition algorithms -- to monitor public spaces during the ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency and in the months after the pandemic subsides,' reads the bulletin according to The Intercept. The bulletin, which was obtained via a trove of police documents leaked in the'BlueLeaks' hack on law enforcement agencies, mentions that the masks could be used by extremists to avoid facial recognition technology but says there is no current evidence that any such group is currently doing so. '[There is] no specific information that violent extremists or other criminals in the United States are using protective face coverings to conduct attacks,' reads the document.


New US visa rule leaves Indian, Chinese students in panic

Al Jazeera

New York, United States - The Trump administration's abrupt changes to foreign student visa rules have upended the plans of more than a million international students currently enrolled in institutions across the United States, with many fearing for their future. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on Monday announced that it would strip the visa of foreign students whose entire courses have moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic, with critics calling the move "xenophobic" and part of President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy. The directive by ICE's Student and Exchange Visitor Program is likely to hit hundreds of thousands of students, particularly from Asian countries, hard, as they will have to leave the US or face deportation. Many of them might face the prospect of distance learning from the other side of the world, where time zones, unreliable internet connections, and internet bans would make completing their degree programmes difficult - if not impossible. According to research conducted by ICE, nearly 80 percent of all international students in the US are from Asia, with China and India accounting for nearly half of them.


Immigrants help make America great

Science

I am a scientist. I am an American. And I am the product of special expert visas and chain migration—among the many types of legal immigration into the United States. On 22 June, President Trump issued a proclamation that temporarily restricts many types of legal immigration into the country, including that of scientists and students. This will make America neither greater nor safer—rather, it could make America less so. The administration claims that these restrictions are necessitated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak to prevent threats to American workers. This reasoning is flawed for science and engineering, where immigrants are critical to achieving advances and harnessing the resulting economic opportunity for all Americans. For decades, the United States has inspired both immigrants and nonimmigrants to make substantial contributions to science and technology that benefit everyone. Preventing highly skilled scientists and postdocs from entering the United States directly threatens this enterprise. My uncle, a geologist, came to the United States in the 1960s to work at NASA. He then taught at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and later served as lead geochemist for the state of California. He sponsored my father to come to America in 1968. Leaving Mumbai, a city of millions, and arriving in Hickory, a town of thousands in North Carolina, my father came home to a place he had never been before. My parents worked in furniture factories and textile mills to put us though college and ensure we had opportunities. Today, my sister works at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and I have the privilege of leading the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, the publisher of Science ). We exist because of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and our parents' belief in the vision of the United States as a shining city on a hill. My family's story is repeated by thousands of American scientists. These stories include uncertainty when an immigrant's status in America is in question. This uncertainty causes stress and the possibility that immigrants will leave and take their skills, talents, and humanity elsewhere. For the successful, these stories culminate with relief, celebration, and the pride of becoming a naturalized citizen. As President Reagan said, the United States is the one place in the world where “anybody from any corner of the world can come…to live and become an American.” Naturalized citizens love the United States deeply because they chose to be American. They and other immigrants make huge contributions to science and engineering. According to the National Science Foundation, more than 50% of postdocs and 28% of science and engineering faculty in the United States are immigrants. Of the Nobel Prizes in chemistry, medicine, and physics awarded to Americans since 2000, 38% were awarded to immigrants to the United States. I don't know the number of prizes given to second-generation Americans but Steven Chu—current chair of the AAAS Board of Directors—is among them. The incredible achievements of the American scientific enterprise speak volumes about the vision and forethought of the American people who have worked to create a more perfect union. Suspending legal immigration is self-defeating and breaks a model that is so successful that other nations are copying it. As Thomas Donohue, chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said regarding the administration's proclamation, “Putting up a ‘not welcome’ sign for engineers, executives, IT experts, doctors, nurses, and other workers won't help our country, it will hold us back. Restrictive changes to our nation's immigration system will push investment and economic activity abroad, slow growth, and reduce job creation.” To develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, cure cancers, go to Mars, understand the fundamental laws of the universe and human behavior, develop artificial intelligence, and build a better future, we need the brain power of the descendants of Native Americans, Pilgrims, Founding Mothers and Fathers, Enslaved People, Ellis Island arrivals, and immigrants from everywhere. The United States has thrived as a crossroads where people are joined together by ideas and contribute by choice to the freedom and opportunity provided by this wonderful, inspiring, and flawed country that is always striving to live up to its aspirations. Scientists, look around your labs and offices. Think about your collaborations and friendships. We must ensure that this “temporary” restriction on legal immigration does not become permanent. Now is the time to speak up for your immigrant colleagues and for America.


Trump administration awards tech start-up contract to build 'virtual' border wall

#artificialintelligence

The Trump administration has reportedly awarded a contract to a California-based tech startup to set up hundreds of "autonomous surveillance towers" along the U.S.-Mexico border to aid its immigration enforcement efforts. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on Thursday that the towers, which use artificial intelligence and imagery to identify people and vehicles, were now a "program of record" for the agency and that 200 would be deployed along the southern border by 2022. CBP did not mention the contract in its announcement, though the Washington Post reported that the effort includes a five-year agreement with Anduril Industries, a tech startup backed by investors such as Peter Thiel. Anduril executives told the Post that the deal is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The company, which specializes in AI and other technologies, is valued at $1.9 billion, according to Bloomberg News.


Palmer Luckey's startup will build a 'virtual' border wall

Engadget

It's no secret that Palmer Luckey's Anduril Industries has been developing a "virtual wall" to heighten national security -- he's been at it for the better part of three years. That work (for better or worse) has finally paid off. According to a new report from the Washington Post, the Trump administration awarded Anduril a lucrative five-year contract to erect hundreds of AI-powered surveillance towers along the U.S.-Mexico border by 2022. "These towers give agents in the field a significant leg up against the criminal networks that facilitate illegal cross-border activity," said Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott in a statement released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Anduril's hardware almost looks like it belongs in orbit, rather than sitting amid desert scrub.


Trump's freeze on new visas could threaten US dominance in AI

MIT Technology Review

Even before president Trump's executive order on June 22, the US was already bucking global tech immigration trends. Over the past five years, as other countries have opened up their borders to highly skilled technical people, the US has maintained--and even restricted--its immigration policies, creating a bottleneck for meeting domestic demand for tech talent. Now Trump's decision to suspend a variety of work visas has left many policy analysts worried about what it could mean for long-term US innovation. In particular, the suspension of the H-1B, a three-year work visa granted to foreign workers in specialty fields and one of the primary channels for highly skilled tech workers to join the US workforce, could impact US dominance in critical technologies such as AI. "America's key competitors are going in a different direction," says Tina Huang, a research analyst at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET).


IBM will no longer develop facial recognition technology following George Floyd protests

The Independent - Tech

IBM will no longer develop technology for facial recognition following protests against racial inequality in the US and UK. In a letter to congress, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said that the company "no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software." "IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency." "We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies," the letter states. Amazon workers'refuse' to build tech for US immigration Amazon workers'refuse' to build tech for US immigration Facial recognition software has been often criticised on both privacy grounds – in that it increases the UK's already large surveillance state – but also because the software disproportionately misidentifies people of colour.