Flawed Algorithms Are Grading Millions of Students' Essays

news - Posted On:2019-08-20 15:45:00 Source: slashdot

Fooled by gibberish and highly susceptible to human bias, automated essay-scoring systems are being increasingly adopted, a Motherboard investigation has found. From a report: Every year, millions of students sit down for standardized tests that carry weighty consequences. National tests like the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) serve as gatekeepers to higher education, while state assessments can determine everything from whether a student will graduate to federal funding for schools and teacher pay. Traditional paper-and-pencil tests have given way to computerized versions. And increasingly, the grading process -- even for written essays -- has also been turned over to algorithms. Natural language processing (NLP) artificial intelligence systems -- often called automated essay scoring engines -- are now either the primary or secondary grader on standardized tests in at least 21 states, according to a survey conducted by Motherboard. Three states didn't respond to the questions. Of those 21 states, three said every essay is also graded by a human. But in the remaining 18 states, only a small percentage of students' essays -- it varies between 5 to 20 percent -- will be randomly selected for a human grader to double check the machine's work. But research from psychometricians -- professionals who study testing -- and AI experts, as well as documents obtained by Motherboard, show that these tools are susceptible to a flaw that has repeatedly sprung up in the AI world: bias against certain demographic groups. And as a Motherboard experiment demonstrated, some of the systems can be fooled by nonsense essays with sophisticated vocabulary. Essay-scoring engines don't actually analyze the quality of writing. They're trained on sets of hundreds of example essays to recognize patterns that correlate with higher or lower human-assigned grades. They then predict what score a human would assign an essay, based on those patterns. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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AT&T brings cable TV prices to online streaming with $135 monthly plan

Biz & IT - Posted On:2019-08-20 15:15:00 Source: arstechnica

AT&T is now charging up to $135 a month for the online video service formerly known as DirecTV Now.

DirecTV Now launched in 2016 with plans ranging from $35 to $70 a month for 60 to 120 channels. There have been several price increases and a reduction in the number of channels since, resulting in AT&T offering just two packages of $50 a month for 45 channels and $70 a month for 60 channels.

This week, AT&T completed the name change from DirecTV Now to "AT&T TV Now" and rolled out a few higher-priced packages. The $50 and $70 plans still exist, but AT&T TV Now customers can also get 65 channels for $93 a month, 85 channels for $110, 105 channels for $124, or 125 channels for $135. There's also a Spanish-language plan called Óptimo Más with 90 channels for $86 a month.

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The death of “Works with Nest” begins now with Google account migrations

Tech - Posted On:2019-08-20 15:00:00 Source: arstechnica

The smart home company Nest is currently in the middle of a rocky transition from standalone Alphabet company to a full-on merger with Google's hardware team, where it will exist as a Google sub-brand. The details were announced during Google I/O 2019 and include the debut of the first "Google Nest" product, the shutdown of the "Works with Nest" (WWN) ecosystem, and the death of standalone Nest accounts and the Nest/Google data separation. Until now, the transition has mostly involved news and new products, but now a recent update to the Nest app will let existing Nest users "migrate their account to Google." Be warned that doing this will break a lot of things and is irreversible.

So far, it looks like the Nest-to-Google transition more or less involves shutting down everything that was unique to Nest and switching to the Google Home/Google Assistant ecosystem. Migrating your Nest account to a Google account basically means jumping ecosystems, leaving behind any "Works with Nest" integrations with other apps or devices. Basic things like the Nest app, website, and Google voice commands will still work, but that's about it. Amazon Alexa users will probably see the current "Works with Nest" skill stop working, but apparently there is a new "Google Nest" skill that will replace some of the functionality.

Google's support page on the transition warns that the process "is not reversible" and that "During the migration process, you will need to remove and disconnect all your WWN third-party product connections (also not reversible)." This means you'll have to take careful stock of your Nest integrations before you switch and make sure you know what will and won't break. If you mess up, there's no going back.

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A Diet Based on Caloric Restriction Might Make You Live Longer. It'll Certainly Feel Like Longer.

science - Posted On:2019-08-20 15:00:00 Source: slashdot

A diet based on caloric restriction might make you live longer. It'll certainly feel like longer. Called Prolon, it's a five-day, $250 meal kit which arrives in a white cardboard container a little bigger than a shoebox. It involves eating about 800 calories each day. The idea is that temporarily shifts your body into a starvation state, prompting your cells to consume years of accumulated cellular garbage before unleashing a surge of restorative regeneration. The idea that starving yourself while still taking in crucial nutrients will let you live longer is not new. The practice, called caloric restriction, is the only proven way to extend life in a wide variety of creatures. There are currently trials underway to see if the diet might help protect human patients from the ravages of chemotherapy, too. However, experiments have found that doing it for extended periods is a problem, and probably not practical for most people. Research on the "fast-mimicking diet" is still limited, but the Prolon diet has been sold in 15 countries and tried by more than 150,000 people. Read how Adam Piore got on when he tried it out. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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New Nvidia driver update cuts latency down to the bone (Updated)

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2019-08-20 14:30:00 Source: arstechnica

In the world of high-end gaming graphics cards, improvements in benchmarks like frame rate, resolution, and sharpness dominate much of the discussion. But a new driver update for Nvidia cards today also includes an important improvement that could help reduce the latency between when a player enters their input and when they see the results of that input on-screen. That's enabled by a new Ultra-Low Latency Mode that Nvidia is adding as an option in its software Control Panel through a Game Ready driver update today.

For a decade now, Nvidia's graphics drivers tried to queue an additional one-to-three frames of video ahead of time (depending on user settings). This meant that, after the next frame was ready, the GPU could use otherwise "idle" time to start processing what future frames might look like.

This frame queueing helped smooth out frame rates in cases where the system was temporarily overloaded for one reason or another, letting the GPU squeeze out a frame while the system played catch up. But this frame-rate smoothing also added additional latency, because the system was essentially working from slightly outdated inputs for a few frames.

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Microsoft Releases First Chromium-Based Microsoft Edge Beta

Security - Posted On:2019-08-20 14:15:01 Source: bleepingcomputer

The first Beta release of the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge web browser is now available for Windows and macOS users after having already been downloaded over one million times while distributed through the Dev and Canary preview channels. [...]

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Super-Earth at a nearby star is a Mercury-like hunk of rock

Science - Posted On:2019-08-20 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

The most common star in our galaxy is a red dwarf, smaller and dimmer than Earth. Because these small stars put out much less radiation, the region where planets could have liquid water on their surfaces is much closer to the star. In these exosolar systems, the habitable zone is typically closer to the star than Mercury is to our Sun.

That's a good match to our current technology, which is best at identifying planets close to their host stars. But it has raised questions about whether these close-in planets could actually be habitable, given that red dwarf stars are prone to violent outbursts. Now, researchers have taken a close look at a planet orbiting close to a red dwarf and have found that it looks like a bare rock, suggesting that its star may have stripped off any atmosphere that once existed.

Studying the atmosphere of an exoplanet typically involves observations of it creating a partial eclipse of its host star. In these cases, some of the starlight passes through the planet's atmosphere, allowing us to get a sense of its composition. If there's no sign of this sort of change, then we typically infer that the planet doesn't have an atmosphere.

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You Can Finally See All Of The Info Facebook Collected About You From Other Websites

yro - Posted On:2019-08-20 14:15:00 Source: slashdot

Facebook said Tuesday it's rolling out a long-awaited privacy feature that will let users see and clear information from apps and websites they browse outside of the social network. Some people in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain will gain access to this feature first, but the company plans to broaden the availability soon. From a report: Facebook collects information about its users in two ways: first, through the information you input into its website and apps, and second, by tracking which websites you visit while you're not on Facebook. That's why, after you visit a clothing retailer's website, you'll likely see an ad for it in your Facebook News Feed or Instagram feed. Basically, Facebook monitors where you go, all across the internet, and uses your digital footprints to target you with ads. But Facebook users have never been able to view this external data Facebook collected about them, until now. Facebook tracks your browsing history via the "Login with Facebook" button, the "like" button, Facebook comments, and little bits of invisible code, called the Facebook pixel, embedded on other sites. Today the company will start to roll out a feature called "Off-Facebook Activity" that allows people to manage that external browsing data -- finally delivering on a promise it made over a year ago when CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at a company event that it would develop a feature then called "Clear History." The new tool will display a summary of those third-party websites that shared your visit with Facebook, and will allow you to disconnect that browsing history from your Facebook account. You can also opt out of future off-Facebook activity tracking, or selectively stop certain websites from sending your browsing activity to Facebook. Nearly a third of all websites include a Facebook tracker, according to several studies. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Google's Clickless Era

search - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:45:00 Source: slashdot

For the first time last month, a majority of all browser-based Google searches resulted in zero clicks, according to a new study from software company Sparktoro. From a report: The report's author notes that Google's functionality has changed to keep users within the Google ecosystem, not to always refer them outside of it. "We've passed a milestone in Google's evolution from search engine to walled-garden," he writes. On mobile, where the majority of search traffic takes place, organic searches have fallen about 20%, and have instead been replaced by paid searches and "zero click" searches, or search queries that result in snippets of information being presented, removing the need for a user to click into a link. In January 2016, the report notes, more than half of mobile searches ended without a click. Today, it's almost two-thirds. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Apple Card is now available to all US iPhone owners, adds new cash-back rewards

Tech - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:30:03 Source: arstechnica

Applications to Apple's new digital credit card, dubbed simply Apple Card, are now available to all iPhone users in the United States. This follows a short period when Apple offered early access to a select number of customers who signed up and an employees-only test before that.

Apple Card is a MasterCard backed by Goldman Sachs, and it is primarily managed and used inside the Wallet app on iPhones running iOS 12.4 or later. Users can track their spending categories, pay off the card, order a physical card, and more from within the app.

Apple aimed to address a few common complaints about credit cards with this product—for example, credit card transaction histories are often cryptic, and it's sometimes difficult to determine which vendor a charge was made at if the abbreviated name behind the charge doesn't match the vendor's public-facing name; Apple Card's transaction history shows full names of vendors, along with splash images matching the spending category when possible.

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IBM is moving OpenPower Foundation to The Linux Foundation

Enterprise - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:15:01 Source: techcrunch

IBM makes the Power Series chips, and as part of that has open sourced some of the underlying technologies to encourage wider use of these chips. The open source pieces have been part of the OpenPower Foundation. Today, the company announced it was moving the foundation under The Linux Foundation, and while it was at […]

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Man sued for using bogus YouTube takedowns to get address for swatting

Policy - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

YouTube is suing a Nebraska man the company says has blatantly abused its copyright takedown process. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act offers online platforms like YouTube legal protections if they promptly take down content flagged by copyright holders. However, this process can be abused—and boy did defendant Christopher L. Brady abuse it, according to YouTube's legal complaint (pdf).

Brady allegedly made fraudulent takedown notices against YouTube videos from at least three well-known Minecraft streamers. In one case, Brady made two false claims against a YouTuber and then sent the user an anonymous message demanding a payment of $150 by PayPal—or $75 in bitcoin.

"If you decide not to pay us, we will file a 3rd strike," the message said. When a YouTube user receives a third copyright strike, the YouTuber's account gets terminated.

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New Nvidia driver update cuts latency down to the bone

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:15:00 Source: arstechnica

In the world of high-end gaming graphics cards, improvements in benchmarks like frame rate, resolution, and sharpness dominate much of the discussion. But a new driver update for Nvidia cards today also includes an important improvement that could help reduce the latency between when a player enters their input and when they see the results of that input on-screen. That's enabled by a new Ultra-Low Latency Mode that Nvidia is adding as an option in its software Control Panel through a Game Ready driver update today.

For a decade now, Nvidia's graphics drivers tried to queue an additional one-to-three frames of video ahead of time (depending on user settings). This meant that, after the next frame was ready, the GPU could use otherwise "idle" time to start processing what future frames might look like.

This frame queueing helped smooth out frame rates in cases where the system was temporarily overloaded for one reason or another, letting the GPU squeeze out a frame while the system played catch up. But this frame-rate smoothing also added additional latency, because the system was essentially working from slightly outdated inputs for a few frames.

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Microsoft Patches Vulnerable Android Remote Desktop App

Security - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:00:01 Source: bleepingcomputer

Microsoft updated the security advisory for an information disclosure vulnerability that previously impacted only Windows Remote Desktop Protocol clients to also include the Microsoft Remote Desktop for Android app. [...]

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States reportedly plan monopoly investigation of Google, Facebook, Amazon

Policy - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:00:00 Source: arstechnica

Big Tech will soon be facing too many antitrust probes to count on one hand, as several states reportedly plan to launch their own joint investigation to accompany all of the federal inquiries already in progress.

Attorneys general for as many as 20 states may be joining forces to dig into whether the dominant tech players use their outsized market power unfairly to quash competition, sources tell the Wall Street Journal.

A bipartisan group of about a dozen attorneys general met with Department of Justice officials last month to discuss issues of competition in the tech sector, the WSJ reports, a meeting at which the AGs of Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, and Texas were present. The office of New York Attorney General Letitia James told the WSJ that the officials involved "have concerns over the control of personal data by large tech companies and will hold them accountable for anticompetitive practices that endanger privacy and consumer data."

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Bitbucket Dropping Support For Mercurial

developers - Posted On:2019-08-20 13:00:00 Source: slashdot

Bitbucket, once one of the largest Mercurial repository hosting sites, said Tuesday it plans to remove Mercurial features and repositories from its platform on June 1, 2020. In a blog post, Bitbucket wrote: As we surpass 10 million registered users on the platform, we're at a point in our growth where we are conducting a deeper evaluation of the market and how we can best support our users going forward. After much consideration, we've decided to remove Mercurial support from Bitbucket Cloud and its API. For those of you affected by this, you can consider a number of platforms including SourceForge to host and manage your repositories. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Exposed Sphinx Servers Are No Challenge for Hackers

Security - Posted On:2019-08-20 12:15:01 Source: bleepingcomputer

Attackers can take advantage of Sphinx web servers exposed on the internet to access, alter, or remove data in the database, warns CERT-Bund, Germany's computer emergency response team. [...]

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Microsoft's Chromium-Powered Edge Browser Moves Closer To Release With New Beta Build

slashdot - Posted On:2019-08-20 12:15:00 Source: slashdot

Microsoft today made a beta version of its Chromium Edge browser available to download for macOS and Windows platforms, as it looks to convince users to give its revamped version of desktop browser a try. The company said the new beta version is built for "everyday use." From a report: Those on the Dev and Canary channels will continue to be able to run those builds along with the new Beta channel builds. For those on the Canary builds, Microsoft is releasing a new Collections feature today. Microsoft is announcing a couple of other big milestones today: the company says it has had more than 1 million downloads on the preview builds of Edge to date, and it's received more than 140,000 individual pieces of feedback from users so far. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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H2O.ai announces $72.5M Series D led by Goldman Sachs

Artificial Intelligence - Posted On:2019-08-20 11:45:01 Source: techcrunch

H2O.ai‘s mission is to democratize AI by providing a set of tools that frees companies from relying on teams of data scientists. Today it got a bushel of money to help. The company announced a $72.5 million Series D round led by Goldman Sachs and Ping An Global Voyager Fund. Previous investors Wells Fargo, NVIDIA […]

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Dicey Dungeons review: Well, there goes another 100 hours of my life

Gaming & Culture - Posted On:2019-08-20 11:45:01 Source: arstechnica

Apart from the whole “sentient die in a game show” thing, it’s a pretty apt metaphor for my experience with the highly addictive modern roguelike genre (or “roguelite,” depending on how uppity you want to get). I’ve poured a frankly troubling amount of hours into games like The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, and Slay the Spire, the latter of which you may hear used in descriptions of Dicey Dungeons. It’s not an altogether indefensible comparison—they feel similar in some ways—but the games are ultimately quite different.

Slay the Spire combined the board-game-famous mechanic of deckbuilding with the “just one more run” addictiveness of a roguelike dungeon crawler to make, in this author’s estimation, a damn-near perfect game. Dicey Dungeons yoinks Slay the Spire’s general setup—traipsing around a branching map to take part in turn-based, permadeath battles against monsters—but instead of constructing a deck of cards through play, you’re piecing together a set of “equipment” that you activate with standard six-sided dice.

The game rolls your dice for you at the start of each turn—you begin each run with two, but you get more as you level up—and you can then assign your dice to your equipment as you see fit. The starting character, the warrior, starts each game with a sword, which lets you deal damage equal to the numerical value of the die placed on it. The warrior also gets a “combat roll” ability that allows you to do three re-rolls (it is, after all, the starting character).

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