By Isabelle Z | Natural News | Sept. 17, 2018

Google has become so unethical that even some of its own employees want nothing to do with it anymore. In the latest example of the company driving away valued workers, senior research scientist Jack Poulson has quit his job in protest of the company’s plans to launch a censored version of the Google search engine in China.

Last month, news emerged that Google was secretly working on a Chinese search app code-named Dragonfly for devices running Android. It removes any content that the Chinese government doesn’t want its people to see, such as that pertaining to free speech, human rights, democracy, and political dissidents. It will also see queries that have been deemed “sensitive” blacklisted entirely, meaning that no results whatsoever will turn up if people type in certain terms or phrases.

As part of the company’s research and machine intelligence department, Poulson was tasked with improving their search systems’ accuracy. He raised his concerns with his managers but ultimately decided that he couldn’t work for them any more in good conscience. He resigned at the end of last month, and he told The Intercept that at least four others have done the same.

He said that the plan was a violation of Google’s principles stating they will not design technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

Not only was the censorship itself concerning, but he also had reservations about the fact that customer data would be hosted on the Chinese mainland, where the country’s security agencies would have access to it. Given what we know about what the Chinese government does to journalists and political activists it wants to silence, he’s right to be concerned about it.




Poulson told his bosses in his resignation letter: “I view our intent to capitulate to censorship and surveillance demands in exchange for access to the Chinese market as a forfeiture of our values and governmental negotiating position across the globe. There is an all-too-real possibility that other nations will attempt to leverage our actions in China in order to demand our compliance with their security demands.”

More than 1,000 employees concerned about company’s ethics

Poulson is hardly alone in his concerns. When the news of Dragonfly made its way throughout Google, there was a lot of protest within the company, with more than 1,400 employees signing a letter demanding the appointment of an ombudsman to assess the censorship plan’s “urgent moral and ethical issues.” They say they have a right to know what they’re working on. In other words, if Google is going to be carrying out unethical acts, they want no part of it.

Some of those who led the letter effort were also behind protests of the firm’s work with the American military to build AI systems that could identify objects like vehicles in drone footage. Those protests ultimately resulted in Google letting its military contract expire.

Google’s response to the Dragonfly letter? They cut off employees’ access to documents about the Chinese search engine and tightened rules so that employees working remotely can no longer livestream meetings on personal computers after a leak last month.

Earlier this month, the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, refused to show up for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing during which he would have faced questions about the Chinese censorship. In addition, Google has ignored countless journalists’ questions about the plan.

Of course, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise from a company that has been a bit China-like itself, exerting its power to censor search results and YouTube videos when the topic at hand doesn’t serve its political agenda. As this behavior continues and employees grow increasingly wary of where the line will be drawn, there could well end up being a mass exodus.


Contributed by Isabelle Z. of NaturalNews.com


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By Frances Bloomfield | Natural News | August 26, 2018

When Harvard University first introduced RoboBee back in 2013, it could do little more than fly and cling to walls. Come 2018, the same research team has put out a new and improved RoboBee — one that can successfully dive into and burst out of water.

The latest in a series of minuscule, flight-capable robots, this RoboBee is a mere two cm tall and has a weight about one-fiftieth that of a penny. Yet it’s fully capable of smoothly leaping into water, back out, and then making a proper landing. In order to achieve this, the team utilized a combination of experimental data and theoretical modeling to find the ideal flapping frequency for the wings in the air and in the water. Too low a frequency would make it difficult for RoboBee to fly after submerging in fluids, and too high a frequency would result in the wings snapping off. They found that 220 to 300 hertz was suitable for aerial flight, and nine to 13 hertz was best for water.

Following this, the researchers had to devise a way for RoboBee to break surface tension and leap back into the air. The solution turned out to be a two-step system consisting of a central gas collection chamber and four buoyant outtriggers. Upon swimming to the surface, an electrolytic plate within RoboBee’s gas chamber would convert water into combustible oxyhydrogen which propels the wings and the robot out of water. The outtriggers would then help stabilize RoboBee.

“Because the RoboBee has a limited payload capacity, it cannot carry its own fuel, so we had to come up with a creative solution to exploit resources from the environment,” explained Elizabeth Farrell Helbling, graduate student at the Harvard Microbiotics Laboratory and co-author of the accompanying paper. “Surface tension is something that we have to overcome to get out of the water, but is also a tool that we can utilize during the gas collection process.”




At this stage, the biggest limitation of RoboBee is that it can’t fly right after emerging from water due to the lack of on-board sensors and a restricted motion-tracking system. Yet the team hopes to improve on this in the future. One other thing RoboBee has going for it is that it’s a thousand times lighter than any past aerial-to-aquatic robot — meaning that it could potentially be utilized for even more real-life applications, such as environmental monitoring and search-and-rescue operations.

However, this also means that RoboBee could very well be an effective spy. As was brought up in a 2016 article on the Daily Mail, this tiny robot can land on and rest on just about any surface with nothing more than an electrode patch and foam mount. Essentially, RoboBee would be using static electricity to stick to walls, an action that requires way less power than flying. So a RoboBee that has settled comfortably on your ceiling is one that could stay there for long periods of time.

Furthermore, at its current size, RoboBee could easily be mistaken for an actual bee struggling to get out of water. This could then present an easy opportunity for a free meal to the likes of woodpeckers, shrikes, crab spiders, beewolves, and frogs — all animals known to prey on bees. But instead of getting a quick meal, they risk mouthfuls of potentially deadly electronics and hardware.

So really, RoboBee may pave the way for better microrobots to come, but currently it’s a piece of technology that should be approached with cautious optimism at the least. After all, it only takes one wicked individual to take something good and appropriate it for less-than-savory purposes. (Related: Not only spy drones in the sky: Homeland Security has robot spy fish in the water.)

Go to Robotics.news and read up on many more stories about robots and artificial intelligence.


Contributed by Frances Bloomfield of NaturalNews.com


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