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Welcome to the September 9, 2019 edition of ACM TechNews, providing timely information for IT professionals three times a week.

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Students placing batteries into drones When the AI Professor Leaves, Students Suffer, Study Says
The New York Times
Cade Metz
September 6, 2019

A study by University of Rochester researchers found an exodus of artificial intelligence (AI) professors from North American universities to the private sector has reduced the prospect that graduate students will found new AI companies. Those graduates who did usually attracted less venture capital, with the field of deep learning especially affected. The researchers suggested this academic attrition could hinder innovation and economic expansion over time. The technology industry mostly ignored deep learning's potential until 2010, but interest grew as the Internet produced more data and new computer chips reduced the analytical burden; large tech companies have hired many academic specialists, including two recent recipients of the ACM A.M. Turing Award honored for their work on neural networks. Carnegie Mellon University's Ariel Procaccia said, "If industry keeps hiring the cutting-edge scholars, who will train the next generation of innovators in artificial intelligence?"

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The Top Programming Languages 2019
IEEE Spectrum
Stephen Cass
September 6, 2019

IEEE Spectrum's 2019 roster of leading programming languages once again ranks Python in the top slot, not least because of the massive amount of available specialized libraries, especially in the artificial intelligence field. A significant expansion in computing power in microcontrollers adds to the growing popularity of embedded versions of Python, like CircuitPython and MicroPython. Java, C, and C++ are respectively ranked second, third, and fourth, while the number-crunching language R ranked in fifth place, driven by ever-mounting volumes of big data. The sixth-place ranking of MathWorks' Matlab—a proprietary language designed for numerical computing—mirrors the language's popularity in hardware engineering, particularly for users running models or engineering control systems with MathWorks' graphical Simulink package.

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An altered video claiming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was slurring her words Get Ready for More Humanlike Bots, Better Deep-Fake Videos, Wall-to-Wall Disinformation in 2020 Race
The Baltimore Sun
September 5, 2019

Studies by New York University (NYU) and University of Southern California (USC) researchers anticipate that foreign and domestic actors will ramp up efforts to disseminate disinformation and fake news in order to manipulate voters in the 2020 election. NYU's Paul M. Barrett cited artificial intelligence-generated deepfake videos as a serious threat, spread deliberately by right-wing media and other organizations. Meanwhile, a report by USC's Emilio Ferrara and colleagues found that "bots or fake accounts enabled by artificial intelligence on Twitter have evolved and are now better able to copy human behaviors in order to avoid detection." Ferrara foresees an arms race developing between bots and detection algorithms, with bots coming up with more convincing human mimicry in response to social media's attempts to rein in abuse. Said Ferrara, "With the upcoming 2020 U.S. elections, the integrity of social media discourse is of paramount importance to allow a democratic process free of external influences."

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White House Launches Quantum Advisory Committee
Brandi Vincent
September 4, 2019

The Trump administration has established a National Quantum Initiative Advisory Committee, reportedly to help the White House "ensure continued American leadership in quantum information science and technology applications." The committee’s creation was directed by the National Quantum Initiative Act, which was enacted last year to support U.S. quantum technology research and development. Committee members are to meet twice each year to exchange information with agency officials and other quantum information science (QIS) stakeholders, advise the president and others on QIS policy, and offer recommendations to enhance the National Quantum Initiative Program. The law stipulates committee members will represent universities, laboratories, industry, and federal agencies, and must be "qualified to provide advice and information on quantum information science and technology research, development, demonstrations, standards, education, technology transfer, commercial application, or national security and economic concerns."

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Why Mastercard Is Betting on Middle School Girls to Detect Cyberthreats
Christopher West Davis
September 8, 2019

Mastercard's five-year-old Girls4Tech program aims to inspire middle school girls worldwide to pursue careers in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI), with the goal of recruiting 1 million girls by 2025. Girls4Tech sends employees to schools around the world to serve as role models and mentors for students. The program taps the company's expertise in payments technology and innovation, and focuses on areas like encryption, fraud detection, data analysis, and digital convergence. Surveys after each workshop typically find nearly all participating girls learn something new about science, technology, engineering, and math, with 88% expressing interest in learning more about fraud detection and cryptology.

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Parent and child on a laptop Schools Pushed for Tech in Every Classroom. Now Parents Are Pushing Back.
The Wall Street Journal
Betsy Morris; Tawnell D. Hobbs
September 3, 2019

U.S. schools have made huge technology investments in the last 10 years, hoping to improve children's learning, retention in class, and future economic competitiveness—but now parents and educators question whether the effect has been beneficial. Researchers at Rand and elsewhere see no clear proof such deployments or strategies work in practice, even as parents demand evidence technology actually works as an educational tool. A study by the University of Colorado at Boulder's National Education Policy Center concluded the rapid adoption of mostly proprietary technology in academia is riddled with "questionable educational assumptions...self-interested advocacy by the technology industry, serious threats to student privacy, and a lack of research support." Supporters claim technology in schools is essential for ensuring students become responsible digital citizens, but parents and teachers are concerned technology and personalized education are asking too much of children, and ask schools to scale back such programs.

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Sum of Three Cubes for 42 Finally Solved—Using Real-Life Planetary Computer
University of Bristol News
September 6, 2019

Researchers at the U.K.'s University of Bristol and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have finally found the Sum-of-Three-Cubes' solution for the number 42, a longstanding mathematical challenge. Bristol's Andrew Booker and MIT's Andrew Sutherland employed the Charity Engine planetary computer, which taps idle, unused computing power from more than 500,000 home-based personal computers to form a crowdsourced, sustainable platform. It took more than 1 million hours of calculation to arrive at the solution. Booker said the challenge was "a bit like trying to predict earthquakes, in that we have only rough probabilities to go by."

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ROBOpilot taking the controls Robot Pilot That Can Grab the Controls Gets Its License
New Scientist
David Hambling
August 30, 2019

The ROBOpilot Unmanned Aircraft Conversion System passed the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Practical Test for piloting light aircraft and completed its first flight on August 9. ROBOpilot was developed by DZYNE Technologies as an easy, relatively inexpensive way to make any aircraft autonomous, as the system can take off, follow a flight plan, and land without human intervention. Said University of Liverpool's Louise Dennis, “It looks like an impressive achievement in terms of robotics. Unlike an autopilot which has direct access to the controls and sensors, the robot is in the place of a human pilot and has to physically work the controls and reads the dials."

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AI Learns the Language of Chemistry to Predict How to Make Medicines
University of Cambridge
Sarah Collins
September 3, 2019

Researchers at the University of Cambridge in the U.K. have developed a machine learning algorithm that predicts the result of chemical reactions with greater accuracy than human chemists and suggests ways to create complex molecules. The algorithm trained on millions of reactions published in patents using pattern recognition tools to identify how chemical groups in molecules react. The team thought of chemical reaction prediction as a machine translation problem in which the reacting molecules are considered one "language," while the product is considered a different language. The model uses the patterns in the text to learn how to "translate" between the two languages. The team found the model was 90% accurate in predicting the correct product of unseen chemical reactions, while trained human chemists achieve around 80% accuracy.

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One in Five U.K. Schools Says Students Have Broken Into Computer Systems
Steve Ranger
September 6, 2019

A cybersecurity audit by the U.K.'s National Cyber Security Center and the London Grid for Learning found 21% of 430 U.K. schools had their computers, networks, or servers hacked by students. Moreover, 83% of the schools had suffered at least one cyberattack, like phishing, malware, and spoofing. Eleven percent cited unauthorized staff use of computers, networks, or servers, with just 4% noting unauthorized outside use, and 3% admitted to leaks of confidential data from online systems. More positively, 95% of schools audited reported implementing firewalls, antivirus, data backups, and regular software patches. Up to 85% had a cybersecurity plan, yet only 41% had a business continuity plan, and use of strong cybersecurity practices was relatively low.

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