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eThinker Newsletter September 2019 

    DeepFakes are audiovisual forms of fake news, but their existence is NOT fake. We've already seen examples, some benign and some not. Remember the Pelosi tape? By just slowing a recording down, her opponents made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sound like she was slurring her speech like a drunk or a stroke victim. The fake tape went viral.
     You can count on there being more of the same as we come up on what promises to be an extremely dirty presidential election. The alleged Trump "pee-pee" tape probably doesn't exist, but one might by this time next year. And when it gets sprung on the electorate as an October surprise, how can it be proven to be real or just a clever fraud? Against such technology, how can the truth prevail?
     Artificial Intelligence, the same technology being used to produce deepfakes, is now being brought to bear in the Deepfake Detection Challenge, which is offering ten million dollars in research grants and rewards to develop ways to detect a deepfake video when humans can't.
     The challenge comes from Facebook, with the backing of Microsoft, the Partnership on AI, and academics from several universities. Facebook intends to create its own--hopefully nonpoisonous--deepfake videos using paid actors and the latest deepfake techniques. These videos will then be the test data used to help build a system that can detect them. Let's hope someone or several someones earn that $10 million jackpot.
     Lest anyone be thinking, who cares, it's just politics, it is so much more. A deepfake has already cost a UK company $243,000 because a CEO believed a fraudulent message to wire the funds to a fraudster's account. A deepfake portraying a supposed act of blasphemy could inflame a mob to commit violence or even murder. And yes, it could turn an election.
     AI gave us this monster. AI needs to put it back in its cage.


Paul Fountas
MicroComputer Resources, Inc.
Video Conferences, Flextime, Remote Work
Not Just an Innovation; It's Expected
    Video conferencing technologies, once an innovation, are now the expected staples in today's workplace, along with remote work and flexible schedules, according to the 2019 Impact of Video Conferencing Report released by Lifesize, a global innovator of video collaboration and meeting productivity solutions. Indeed, it's getting hard to attract top talent because the applicants don't want to be tied down to the traditional 9-to-5 job with an occasional road trip for face-to-face meetings.
     "We're seeing a broad lifestyle shift away from the days of frequent flying and in-person meetings being a necessity. Companies of all sizes are opting for more casual work environments, collaborative cultures and flexible meeting structures, where employees can work from anywhere across the globe at any time—all enabled by technology," said Craig Malloy, CEO of Lifesize.
     The report reveals that remote work has grown by 159% since 2005, as employees prefer the affordability and convenience of remote work over traditional working styles. Video conferencing has played a major role in this shift, the report found, with 51% of employees reportedly taking video calls in their home offices.
     In an accompanying interview Lisa Walker, Vice President of Fuze, said their research shows that employees entering the workforce expect that flexibility will be part of the job and not just a perk to be possibly granted on request. Indeed, she said a survey of existing information employees shows that 18% would take pay cuts in return for more flexibility from managers.
     There are benefits beyond employee satisfaction:
  • The healthier work-life balance can prevent employee burn-out, one of the top reasons people quit their jobs.
  • There is less travel time, both in the daily commute for those allowed to work remotely, and in travel for face-to-face meetings. This saves in unproductive time on the road or in the air, travel expenses and possibly overnight stays.

Hackers Urged to Take It to the Edge
    Calling all hackers. Here's a chance to make some legitimate money out of a usually illegitimate skill.
     Last month, Microsoft released the official beta of its Chromium-based Edge browser. Beta testing is the time to locate the operational bugs in a piece of software, so they can be fixed before the official release. And there is no bug as important as the kind that opens your system and your precious data to malicious hackers.
     So, for all you ethical hackers, or just interested researchers, here is your chance to find high-impact vulnerabilities in the new Edge browser, and to collect rewards of up to $30,000. Happy hunting.

In This Issue
Video Conferences, Flextime, Remote Work; It's Expected

Hackers Urged to Take It to the Edge

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Tips and Tricks
The Windows task bar runs along the bottom of the screen by default, but you're not stuck with it that way. The simplest way to change it is to simply put your cursor on the task bar and then drag it to the left, right, or top. In fact, many people do that by accident and then freak out. You can also go to Settings > Personalization > Taskbar and choose one of the four options from the Taskbar Location On Screen list. And while you're in there, if you want to prevent that accidental shifting of location, set Lock the taskbar to On.
Fun Facts
We've heard of the Iron Curtain, that invisible but generally uncrossable barrier that once separated the Communist Soviet bloc from the free world. That came down with the end of the Cold War. Still standing firm and unbreachable is the Zion Curtain of Salt Lake City. The city is the capital of Utah, where 62 percent of the population are members of the teetotaling Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This means nondrinkers control the government that regulates alcohol. One of its quirky liquor laws is that all drinks must be kept and prepared behind a sort of dressing screen, nicknamed the Zion Curtain, lest sober and underage customers be offended--or, even worse, tempted--by the sight of a forbidden beverage.
Quotable Quote
"What about passion, dedication, loyalty? Can a robot provide those? No! On the other hand, it's easier to retire a robot when its day is done."
-- Stanley Bing