AI

When AI Botches Your Medical Diagnosis, Who's To Blame? (qz.com) 84

Robert Hart has posed an interested question in his report on Quartz: When artificial intelligence botches your medical diagnosis, who's to blame? Do you blame the AI, designer or organization? It's just one of many questions popping up and starting to be seriously pondered by experts as artificial intelligence and automation continue to become more entwined into our daily lives. From the report: The prospect of being diagnosed by an AI might feel foreign and impersonal at first, but what if you were told that a robot physician was more likely to give you a correct diagnosis? Medical error is currently the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and as many as one in six patients in the British NHS receive incorrect diagnoses. With statistics like these, it's unsurprising that researchers at Johns Hopkins University believe diagnostic errors to be "the next frontier for patient safety." Of course, there are downsides. AI raises profound questions regarding medical responsibility. Usually when something goes wrong, it is a fairly straightforward matter to determine blame. A misdiagnosis, for instance, would likely be the responsibility of the presiding physician. A faulty machine or medical device that harms a patient would likely see the manufacturer or operator held to account. What would this mean for an AI?
Programming

'Coding Is Not Fun, It's Technically and Ethically Complex' (qz.com) 280

An anonymous reader shares an article: For starters, the profile of a programmer's mind is pretty uncommon. As well as being highly analytical and creative, software developers need almost superhuman focus to manage the complexity of their tasks. Manic attention to detail is a must; slovenliness is verboten. Coding isn't the only job that demands intense focus. But you'd never hear someone say that brain surgery is "fun," or that structural engineering is "easy." When it comes to programming, why do policymakers and technologists pretend otherwise? For one, it helps lure people to the field at a time when software (in the words of the venture capitalist Marc Andreessen) is "eating the world" -- and so, by expanding the labor pool, keeps industry ticking over and wages under control. Another reason is that the very word "coding" sounds routine and repetitive, as though there's some sort of key that developers apply by rote to crack any given problem. It doesn't help that Hollywood has cast the "coder" as a socially challenged, type-first-think-later hacker, inevitably white and male, with the power to thwart the Nazis or penetrate the CIA. Insisting on the glamor and fun of coding is the wrong way to acquaint kids with computer science. It insults their intelligence and plants the pernicious notion in their heads that you don't need discipline in order to progress. As anyone with even minimal exposure to making software knows, behind a minute of typing lies an hour of study. It's better to admit that coding is complicated, technically and ethically. Computers, at the moment, can only execute orders, to varying degrees of sophistication. So it's up to the developer to be clear: the machine does what you say, not what you mean. More and more "decisions" are being entrusted to software, including life-or-death ones: think self-driving cars; think semi-autonomous weapons; think Facebook and Google making inferences about your marital, psychological, or physical status, before selling it to the highest bidder. Yet it's rarely in the interests of companies and governments to encourage us to probe what's going on beneath these processes.
Programming

Java Creator James Gosling Joins Amazon Web Services (geekwire.com) 88

The legendary computer scientist and founder of Java, James Gosling, is joining forces with Amazon Web Services. Gosling made the announcement today on Facebook saying that he's "starting a new Adventure" with the cloud computing juggernaut as a Distinguished Engineer. GeekWire reports: Gosling wrote Java, one of the most widely used programming languages in the history of computing, while at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. He likely ruffled a few feathers in Seattle last year after speaking out about fears of cloud vendor lock-in. "You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: 'Take your applications and move them to the cloud.' But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud," he said at IP Expo according to The Inquirer, echoing the sentiment of some skeptical IT organizations burned by enterprise vendors in the past.
Bitcoin

Ethereum Could Be Worth More Than Bitcoin Very Soon (inc.com) 83

Ethereum is an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications, according to Blockgeeks. It is currently the second most valuable cryptocurrency on the planet, but it could overthrow Bitcoin and become the most valuable cryptocurrency in the near future. Inc.com reports: If you aren't familiar, what Bitcoin does for payments, Ethereum does for anything involving programming and computing. While it utilizes its own version of a blockchain, it is functionally different from Bitcoin. For example, on the Ethereum platform you could host a crowdfunding campaign or any type of "smart contract." Ethereum's goal is to make a decentralized internet. And it has a very good shot at becoming "the new internet," literally. It could one day replace a lot of technology and ways that we host and execute code online. As of the time of writing, Ethereum has a market cap of over $17 billion. Bitcoin's market cap is $34 billion. This makes Ether (the name of Ethereum's token) the second most valuable cryptocurrency in the world. And that number jumped up over $3 billion just yesterday. It's making a major climb and has no end in sight, according to many. The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance is what initially spiked major interest (and shot up the price). Just the other day, 86 new companies joined the alliance.
Desktops (Apple)

App Maker's Code Stolen in Malware Attack (bbc.com) 73

Mac and iOS software developer Panic has had the source code for several of its apps stolen. An anonymous reader writes: Panic founder Steven Frank said in a blog post that it happened after he downloaded an infected copy of the video encoding tool Handbrake. He said there was no sign that any customer data was accessed and that Panic's web server was not affected. Users have been warned to download Panic's apps only from its website or the Apple App Store. Panic is the creator of web editing and file transfer apps Coda and Transmit, and the video game Firewatch. On May 2, Handbrake was hacked, with the Mac version of the app on one of the site's download servers replaced by a malicious copy. In what Mr Frank called "a case of extraordinarily bad luck", he downloaded the malicious version of Handbrake and launched it "without stopping to wonder why Handbrake would need admin privileges... when it hadn't before. And that was that, my Mac was completely, entirely compromised in three seconds or less."
Android

Android Now Supports the Kotlin Programming Language (venturebeat.com) 90

In addition to Java and C++, Google announced at its I/O 2017 conference today that Android is gaining official support for the Kotlin programming language. VentureBeat reports: Kotlin is developed by JetBrains, the same people who created IntelliJ. Google describes Kotlin, which is an open sourced project under the Apache 2.0 license, as "a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun." The company notes that some have already adopted the programming language for their production apps, including Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, and Square. There are already many enthusiastic Kotlin developers for Android, and the company says it is simply listening to what the community wants. But Google's choice didn't just come down to the team believing Kotlin will make writing Android apps easier. Developers will be happy to know that Kotlin's compiler emits Java byte-code. Kotlin can call Java, and Java can call Kotlin. Indeed, "the effortless interoperation between the two languages" was a large part of Kotlin's appeal to the Android team. This means you can add as little or as much Kotlin into your existing codebase as you want, mixing the two languages freely within the same project. Calling out to Kotlin code from Java code should just work, while calling to Java code requires some automatically applied translation conventions.
Java

Developer Creates An Experimental Perl 5 To Java Compiler (perl.org) 94

An anonymous reader writes: Saturday night saw the announcement of an experimental Perl 5 to Java compiler. "This is the first release," posted developer FlÃvio S. Glock -- after 100 weeks of development. "Note that you don't need to compile a Java file. Perlito5 now compiles the Perl code to JVM bytecode in memory and executes it." He describes the compiler as "a work-in-progress" that "provides an impressive coverage of Perl features, but it will not run most existing Perl programs due to platform differences."
Programming

Only 36 Percent of Indian Engineers Can Write Compilable Code, Says Study (itwire.com) 210

New submitter troublemaker_23 quotes a report from ITWire: Only 36% of software engineers in India can write compilable code based on measurements by an automated tool that is used across the world, the Indian skills assessment company Aspiring Minds says in a report. The report is based on a sample of 36,800 from more than 500 colleges across India. Aspiring Minds said it used the automated tool Automata which is a 60-minute test taken in a compiler integrated environment and rates candidates on programming ability, programming practices, run-time complexity and test case coverage. It uses advanced artificial intelligence technology to automatically grade programming skills. "We find that out of the two problems given per candidate, only 14% engineers are able to write compilable codes for both and only 22% write compilable code for exactly one problem," the study said. It further found that of the test subjects only 14.67% were employable by an IT services company. When it came to writing fully functional code using the best practices for efficiency and writing, only 2.21% of the engineers studied made the grade.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: What Should Be the Attributes of an Ideal Programming Language If Computers Were Infinitely Fast? 326

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier today, Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games, asked his Twitter followers an interesting question: "What are the attributes of an ideal programming language if computers were infinitely fast, and we designed for coding productivity only?" I could think of several things, the chief of which would be getting rid of the garbage collection. I was wondering what other things you folks would suggest?
Businesses

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Handle Interruptions At Work? 224

This question was inspired by this anonymous submission: Analysis of programming sessions and surveys note that programmers take 10-15 minutes to resume editing code after being interrupted. Computer scientists and researchers from University of Zurich and ABB Inc. have designed the 'FlowLight' system which automatically determines a worker's interruptibility using a combination of keyboard/mouse usage, calendar information, and login state, and makes interruptibility visible to other employees using a red/yellow/green LED indicator placed near the desk... Knowledge workers in various locations found that interruptions were significantly reduced by 46%. [PDF]
NBC reports these researchers "also tested a more advanced version that uses biometric sensors to detect heart rate variability, pupil dilation, eye blinks or even brainwave activity," and of course one of the researchers tells the New Yorker that a commercial version "is 'in the works.'" But it'd be interesting to hear from Slashdot's readers about their own solutions -- and how interruptions affect their own productivity at work. So share your best answers in the comments. How do you feel about interrupt
Education

Should The Government Pay For Veterans To Attend Code Schools? (backchannel.com) 168

mirandakatz writes: David Molina was finishing up his 12-year time in the army when he started teaching himself to code, and started to think that he might like to pursue it professionally once his service was done. But with a wife and family, he couldn't dedicate the four years he'd need to get an undergraduate degree in computer science -- and the GI Bill, he learned, won't cover accelerated programs like code schools. So he started an organization dedicated to changing that. Operation Code is lobbying politicians to allow vets to attend code schools through the GI Bill and prepare themselves for the sorts of stable, middle-class jobs that have come to be called "blue-collar coding." Molina sees it as a serious failing that the GI Bill will cover myriad vocational programs, but not those that can prepare veterans for one of the fastest-growing industries in existence.
The issue seems to be quality. The group estimates there are already nine code schools in the U.S. which do accept GI Bill benefits -- but only "longer-standing ones that have made it through State Approving Agencies." Meanwhile, Course Report calculates 18,000 people finished coding bootcamps last year -- and that two thirds of them found a job within three months.

But I just liked how Molina described his introduction into the world of programmers. While stationed at Dover Air Force Base, he attended Baltimore's long-standing Meetup for Ruby on Rails, where "People taught me about open source. There was pizza, there was beer. They made me feel like I was at home."
Education

How Scratch Is Feeding Hacker Values into Young Minds (backchannel.com) 48

Reader mirandakatz writes: It's the 10th anniversary of Scratch, the kids programming language that's become a popular tool for training the next generation of minds in computer science. But as Steven Levy writes at Backchannel, Scratch's real value is how it imparts lessons in sharing, logic, and hackerism: 'A product of the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is steeped in a complicated set of traditions -- everything from educational philosophy to open source activism and the pursuit of artificial life. The underpinnings of this tool subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, convey a set of values through its use... These values include reverence of logic, an unshakeable belief in the power of collaboration, and a celebration of the psychic and tangible rewards of being a maker.'
NASA

NASA Runs Competition To Help Make Old Fortran Code Faster (bbc.com) 205

NASA is seeking help from coders to speed up the software it uses to design experimental aircraft. From a report on BBC: It is running a competition that will share $55,000 between the top two people who can make its FUN3D software run up to 10,000 times faster. The FUN3D code is used to model how air flows around simulated aircraft in a supercomputer. The software was developed in the 1980s and is written in an older computer programming language called Fortran. "This is the ultimate 'geek' dream assignment," said Doug Rohn, head of NASA's transformative aeronautics concepts program that makes heavy use of the FUN3D code. In a statement, Mr Rohn said the software is used on the agency's Pleiades supercomputer to test early designs of futuristic aircraft. The software suite tests them using computational fluid dynamics, which make heavy use of complicated mathematical formulae and data structures to see how well the designs work.
Television

Hulu Launches Its Live TV Streaming Service (fortune.com) 53

Hulu has officially unveiled its $40-a-month live-television streaming service to help it better compete against larger rivals like Netflix. Fortune reports: On Wednesday morning, Hulu announced the launch of the public beta version of Hulu with Live TV, which starts at $39.99 and allows users to stream live and on-demand programming from more than 50 TV channels running the gamut of live news, entertainment, and sports. The cost of the new service also includes access to Hulu's existing $7.99 premium streaming subscription and access to the company's library of archived content, which includes more than 3,500 film and TV titles. Subscribers to the new live service also get 50 hours of storage for recording programming, the ability to create up to six separate Hulu viewer profiles, and two simultaneous streams per account. The launch comes days after Hulu announced that it secured the final major piece in its live-television puzzle in the form of an agreement with Comcast's NBCUniversal to add several NBC- and Telemundo-owned channels to the Live TV lineup. That deal gave Hulu access to all four major broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. The new live service also includes popular cable networks such as CNN, ESPN, FX, Fox News, TBS, TNT, and the Disney Channel. The only premium cable network currently available on the new live service is Showtime, which costs an additional $8.99 per month. Cable networks such as HBO, AMC Networks, Viacom's Comedy Central and MTV are among those not currently included in Hulu's new service, though the company said on Wednesday that additional premium network add-ons will be available soon.
Facebook

Facebook Rejects Female Engineers' Code More Often Than Male Counterparts, Analysis Finds (theverge.com) 450

According to The Wall Street Journal, female engineers who work at Facebook may face gender bias that prevents their code from being accepted at the same rate as male counterparts. "For Facebook, these revelations call into question the company's ongoing diversity efforts and its goal to build overarching online systems for people around the globe," reports The Verge. "The company's workforce is just 33 percent female, with women holding just 17 percent of technical roles and 27 percent of leadership positions." From the report: The findings come in two parts. An initial study by a former employee found that code written by female engineers was less likely to make it through Facebook's internal peer review system. This seemed to suggest that a female engineer's work was more heavily scrutinized. Facebook, alarmed by this data, commissioned a second study by Jay Parikh, its head of infrastructure, to investigate any potential issues. Parikh's findings suggested that the code rejections were due to engineering rank, not gender. However, Facebook employees now speculate that Parikh's findings mean female engineers might not be rising in the ranks as fast as male counterparts who joined the company at the same time, or perhaps that female engineers are leaving the company more often before being promoted. Either possibility could result in the 35 percent higher code rejection rate for female engineers. When contacted by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook called the initial study "incomplete and inaccurate" and based on "incomplete data," but did not shy away from confirming Parikh's separate findings.
Programming

Power of Modern Programming Languages is That They Are Expressive, Readable, Concise, Precise, and Executable (scientificamerican.com) 268

An anonymous reader shares a Scientific American article: Programming has changed. In first generation languages like FORTRAN and C, the burden was on programmers to translate high-level concepts into code. With modern programming languages -- I'll use Python as an example -- we use functions, objects, modules, and libraries to extend the language, and that doesn't just make programs better, it changes what programming is. Programming used to be about translation: expressing ideas in natural language, working with them in math notation, then writing flowcharts and pseudocode, and finally writing a program. Translation was necessary because each language offers different capabilities. Natural language is expressive and readable, pseudocode is more precise, math notation is concise, and code is executable. But the price of translation is that we are limited to the subset of ideas we can express effectively in each language. Some ideas that are easy to express computationally are awkward to write in math notation, and the symbolic manipulations we do in math are impossible in most programming languages. The power of modern programming languages is that they are expressive, readable, concise, precise, and executable. That means we can eliminate middleman languages and use one language to explore, learn, teach, and think.
Programming

Developer Hacks Together Object-Oriented HTML (github.com) 184

An anonymous reader writes: Ever since I started coding, I have always loved object-oriented design patterns. I built an HTML preprocessor that adds inheritance, polymorphism, and public methods to this venerable language. It offers more freedom than a templating engine and has a wider variety of use cases. Pull requests appreciated!
Businesses

Should Banks Let Ancient Programming Language COBOL Die? (thenextweb.com) 383

COBOL is a programming language invented by Hopper from 1959 to 1961, and while it is several decades old, it's still largely used by the financial sector, major corporations and part of the federal government. Mar Masson Maack from The Next Web interviews Daniel Doderlein, CEO of Auka, who explains why banks don't have to actively kill COBOL and how they can modernize and "minimize the new platforms' connections to the old systems so that COBOL can be switched out in a safe and cheap manner." From the report: According to [Doderlein], COBOL-based systems still function properly but they're faced with a more human problem: "This extremely critical part of the economic infrastructure of the planet is run on a very old piece of technology -- which in itself is fine -- if it weren't for the fact that the people servicing that technology are a dying race." And Doderlein literally means dying. Despite the fact that three trillion dollars run through COBOL systems every single day they are mostly maintained by retired programming veterans. There are almost no new COBOL programmers available so as retirees start passing away, then so does the maintenance for software written in the ancient programming language. Doderlein says that banks have three options when it comes to deciding how to deal with this emerging crisis. First off, they can simply ignore the problem and hope for the best. Software written in COBOL is still good for some functions, but ignoring the problem won't fix how impractical it is for making new consumer-centric products. Option number two is replacing everything, creating completely new core banking platforms written in more recent programming languages. The downside is that it can cost hundreds of millions and it's highly risky changing the entire system all at once. The third option, however, is the cheapest and probably easiest. Instead of trying to completely revamp the entire system, Doderlein suggests that banks take a closer look at the current consumer problems. Basically, Doderlein suggests making light-weight add-ons in more current programming languages that only rely on COBOL for the core feature of the old systems.
Nintendo

Early Nintendo Programmer Worked Without a Keyboard (arstechnica.com) 111

Much like IT guys, every programmer has a horror story about the extreme work environments that forced them to hack together things. But as ArsTechnica points out, not many of them can beat the keyboard-free coding environment that Masahiro Sakurai apparently used to create the first Kirby's Dream Land. From the story: The tidbit comes from a talk Sakurai gave ahead of a Japanese orchestral performance celebrating the 25th anniversary of the original Game Boy release of Kirby's Dream Land in 1992. Sakurai recalled how HAL Laboratory was using a Twin Famicom as a development kit at the time. Trying to program on the hardware, which combined a cartridge-based Famicom and the disk-based Famicom Disk System, was "like using a lunchbox to make lunch," Sakurai said. As if the limited power wasn't bad enough, Sakurai revealed that the Twin Famicom testbed they were using "didn't even have keyboard support, meaning values had to be input using a trackball and an on-screen keyboard."
GNU is Not Unix

Richard Stallman Interviewed By Bryan Lunduke (youtube.com) 172

Many Slashdot readers know Bryan Lunduke as the creator of the humorous "Linux Sucks" presentations at the annual Southern California Linux Exposition. He's now also a member of the OpenSUSE project board and an all-around open source guy. (In September, he released every one of his books, videos and comics under a Creative Commons license, while his Patreon page offers a tip jar and premiums for monthly patrons). But now he's also got a new "daily computing/nerd show" on YouTube, and last week -- using nothing but free software -- he interviewed the 64-year-old founder of the Free Software Foundation, Richard Stallman. "We talk about everything from the W3C's stance on DRM to opinions on the movie Galaxy Quest," Lunduke explains in the show's notes.

Click through to read some of the highlights.

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