November 28, 2020


An AI that completes quests in a text-based adventure game by talking to the characters has learned not only how to do things, but how to get others to do things. The system is a step toward machines that can use language as a way to achieve their goals.

Pointless prose: Language models like GPT-3 are brilliant at mimicking human-written sentences, churning out stories, fake blogs, and Reddit posts. But there is little point to this prolific output beyond the production of the text itself. When people use language, it is wielded like a tool: our words convince, command, and manipulate; they make people laugh and make people cry.

Mixing things up: To build an AI that used words for a reason, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta and Facebook AI Research combined techniques from natural-language processing and reinforcement learning, where machine-learning models learn how to … Read the rest


What you need to know

  • Apple has confirmed it plans to proceed with measures that will make it harder to track users on iOS.
  • In a response to support from a group of privacy campaigners, Apple said it will roll out the new feature early next year.
  • Facebook has blasted the move as a “distraction” and said the move was about profit, not privacy.

Apple has confirmed plans to roll out new measures in iOS 14 that will make it much harder for advertising companies to track users, despite staunch opposition from companies like Facebook.

According to The Independent:

Apple says that it will press ahead with a controversial privacy feature that has set it against companies including Facebook.

Responding to a letter from a host of privacy campaigners, the company said that it is fully committed to the new update and would be rolling it out early next

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  • A new coronavirus study says that people suffering from type 2 diabetes and hypertension are most at risk of developing severe brain complications.
  • Neurological manifestations, including strokes, brain bleeding, and blocked blood vessels, have been observed in CT and MRI scans of COVID-19 patients.
  • Researchers think that the inflammatory state following the infection can cause neurological symptoms.

Most of the people infected with the novel coronavirus will survive the illness, including people who experience more severe complications. New treatment protocols and more experience with COVID-19 patients have trained doctors to save more lives. But not all those who survive the infection will see a complete recovery within two weeks after the onset of symptoms. Some people will continue to experience manifestations of the virus for a few additional weeks or months, in what’s informally known as “Long COVID.” Also, there’s no guarantee what one’s experience will be with COVID-19, … Read the rest


In the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, several competing projects launched around a deceptively simple concept: your phone could alert you if you’d crossed paths with someone who later tested positive. One system for these exposure notifications quickly caught on. It was designed, in an improbable act of cooperation, by Apple and Google, which released the first version in May

How do the Apple-Google contact tracing apps work?

When you enable exposure notifications, your phone starts using Bluetooth to constantly scan for nearby phones doing the same thing. (This happens in the background, and it’s designed not to use much extra battery.)

When two phones connect, they swap anonymous ID codes. Your phone records how long you spend around the other device and guesses how far away you are, based on a mixture of factors such as how the phone is oriented and how strong the signal from … Read the rest


Sweeney later clarified his remarks, but the internet remained unimpressed.

What you need to know

  • Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has sparked fury on Twitter after likening its lawsuit against Apple to the civil rights movement.
  • Sweeney later said the comparison was not to “the wrongs being fought” but the means of fighting them.

Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney has sparked fury on Twitter, after reportedly likening the company’s lawsuit to the civil rights movement.

The comments were first noted in an article by TechCrunch:

Sweeney — whose company has been embroiled in a battle since launched a direct-payment system in its popular “Fortnite” game to bypass Apple’s fees — went even further today in conversation with Dealbook during a two-day event.

Specifically, Sweeney reportedly stated:

“It’s everybody’s duty to fight. It’s not just an option that somebody’s lawyers might decide, but it’s actually our duty to fight that.

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  • NordPass released a list of the 200 most common passwords of the year 2020 this week.
  • Most of the passwords on this list also appeared on the 2019 list, and a vast majority of them can be cracked by a hacker in less than a second.
  • If you’re using any of these passwords, change them right away, and be sure to follow all the best practices for making a secure password that can’t be easily cracked.

Every year, the specter of cybersecurity attacks becomes more daunting as hackers find new and increasingly brilliant ways to trick us into handing over information. Everyone should on high alert when visiting a new website, opening an email, or even clicking a link in a text message — but all of these dire threats have still yet to stop us from coming up with the worst passwords imaginable to protect our most important online … Read the rest


On May 20, Super Cyclone Amphan was expected to make landfall in the Indian state of West Bengal. That morning, as the wind picked up, Mitali Mondol and her husband, Animesh, fled their house, leaving behind everything they owned.

The Mondols live in Gosaba, an island in the Sundarbans, an archipelago that is home to the world’s largest mangrove forest. They knew of only one flood shelter. It was far away. As they reached higher ground, they ducked into a restaurant. The restaurant quickly filled up—with family and friends, some of whom brought their goats and hens. Standing as close to the windows as they dared, the villagers watched as the waves climbed to 15 feet high. Then the water broke the embankments. Trees fell, power lines collapsed, and roads vanished.

The region has witnessed 15 major cyclones in recent years, of which Amphan was the latest. Cyclone Sidr, which … Read the rest


It only supports 14W, but you’ll need to buy a 27-watt charger.

What you need to know

  • Apple has confirmed that its MagSafe Duo charger doesn’t support 15W charging.
  • The charger is only good for a maximum of 14W, but you’ll need a 27-watt adapter to achieve that power.

Apple has confirmed that its upcoming MagSafe Duo charger will not support 15W charging, and that to get the maximum of 14W, you’ll need to buy a 27-watt charger.

From Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman:

Wow, Apple has just updated the MagSafe Duo page. The $129 charger only gets you 11 watts for charging with a 20-watt brick, or 14 watts with a 27-watt brick. That compares to the 15 watts you get with the solo MagSafe charger.

Read the rest ...

  • The German government has released three new ads encouraging people to stay home and help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • The short commercials have gone viral on social media, showing an unusual but accurate way of looking at the health crisis.
  • The people who stay indoors and observe health measures are heroes, fighting the same fight to save lives as everyone else.

Germany has been one of the examples to follow from the start of the pandemic. The country ran ample COVID-19 testing and contact tracing campaigns, seeking to find infected people as quickly as possible. Its caseload soared during the first wave, but the number of deaths remained much lower than in neighboring countries or the US. Detecting cases as early as possible can help reduce the spread of the illness and potentially save lives. After the relatively quiet summer, the country faced its own second wave … Read the rest


Even though the winner of an American election usually gets announced soon after the vote happens, the result is never actually official on Election Day. It’s not even official once the media makes their result projections, as happened last week. Instead, election results actually become real when state and local election authorities make sure that every valid vote was counted and formally certify them.

While President Donald Trump continues to dispute the election—he’s launched over a dozen legal efforts to prove fraud, challenge counts, and delay certification—every lawsuit has effectively failed so far. 

Election officials appointed by the Trump administration say the president’s claims are dangerous and lack any credibility. Every state says there is no evidence of fraud, and federal and local election officials of both parties released a joint statement to say exactly that. As it has been since he started making accusations years ago, the president’s … Read the rest