Tech Giants Unite Against Cyber Attacks

The past few years have seen tech giants display social accountability in different ways, especially when governments seem to lack the effort or perhaps the mobility in helpless situations, as in the case of Tesla providing batteries and Google’s parent, Alphabet, bringing Internet back to Puerto Rico after disaster hit the area. This display of accountability might have recently reached its peak as more than 30 global technology companies signed a joint pledge not to assist governments in cyber attacks.

“We recognise that we live in a new world,” Microsoft president, Brad Smith, said during a speech at the RSA cyber security conference in San Francisco. “We’re living amidst a generation of new weapons, and where cyberspace has become the new battlefield.”

Smith, who led efforts to organise the alliance, said the devastating cyber attacks in 2017 demonstrated the need for the technology sector to “take a principled path toward more effective steps to work together and defend customers around the world.”

Microsoft, Facebook, and many others have announced their cooperation in the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, which seeks to protect customers against cyber attacks regardless of political or criminal motives. New partnerships or networks within the tech industry and with tech researchers might also be built, so that they could share information on cyber threats.

It builds on an idea for a so-called Digital Geneva Convention that Smith rolled out at last year’s RSA conference, a proposal to create an international body to protect civilians from state-sponsored hacking. Countries, Smith said then, should develop global rules for cyber attacks similar to those established for armed conflict at the 1949 Geneva Convention that followed World War Two.

It is also great to hear that in addition to the tech giants working on their own movement to protect civilians, they are also calling on governments for the development on new international rules regarding political conflict.

Even in the transnational geopolitical landscape, perhaps the future of humanity really lies with tech.

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Microsoft Commits $25M to AI for People with Disabilities

I’m sure I’m not the only one inspired to hear news about someone overcoming obstacles in his or her life and going on to accomplish amazing feats. Time and time again, people have proven that their disabilities cannot take away the drive for awesome deeds, such as a model and a beauty queen with Down’s Syndrome. Blind children achieved scout status, while a blind woman is representing her country at an international triathlon. And in a nearly unbelievable effort, a woman suffering locked-in syndrome wrote a book using only her eye movement.

Microsoft is probably super inspired as well, because the company has recently shown willingness and commitment to help people with disabilities discover their potential. To be specific, it has shown willingness in the amount of 25 million dollars.

The tech company announced their “AI For Accessibility” initiative during their annual developer conference in Seattle on [Monday, May 14].

“By innovating for people with disabilities, we are innovating for us all,” said Microsoft President Brad Smith about the program. “By ensuring that technology fulfills its promise to address the broadest societal needs, we can empower everyone — not just individuals with disabilities — to achieve more.”

The amount will be divided in investments to products involving artificial intelligence that Microsoft and their partner companies will develop. Part of it will also go to grants for startup innovators and designers as well as universities, if they have projects that align to Microsoft’s goals, which is to make life better for people with disabilities. After the next five years in which the initiative will come to fruition, I wonder what inspiring stories we’ll be hearing about then.

The initiative takes special interest in specifically harnessing AI technology to help the disabled, similarly to how it is utilized in real-time text-to-speech programs and predictive-text capabilities.

“AI can be a game changer for people with disabilities,” said Smith. “By making AI solutions more widely available, we believe technology can have a broad impact on this important community.”

Once again, the industry sends a statement that there’s more to technology than profit. And Microsoft has a 25-million-dollar commitment to show for it.

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Microsoft Teaching Motor-less Plane To Fly

At the rate technology is advancing, we can teach machines to do almost anything. From programming drones to plant trees to manufacturing a robot that can detect water pollution, gadgets have become more capable than ever. But can we train a device to rely entirely on nature? Microsoft is teaching this motor-less plane to fly just like a bird.

The researchers have found that through a complex set of AI algorithms, they can get their 16 1/2-foot, 12 1/2-pound aircraft to soar much like a hawk would, by identifying things like air temperature and wind direction to locate thermals — invisible columns of air that rise due to heat.

The plane is one of the only AI systems to act based on predictions it makes. In a nutshell, it is is akin to a simple thinking being.

“Birds do this seamlessly, and all they’re doing is harnessing nature. And they do it with a peanut-sized brain,”

If successful, the planes could be implemented in farming and providing internet connections to remote areas. If cars can drive themselves, planes can follow in their tread marks.

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Bill Gates Donates Giant Microsoft Stake To Charity

You can always count on Warren Buffett’s charity auctions to generate hefty donations for the homeless. He most recently raised $2.6 million for the Glide Foundation. Undefeated in the philanthropic race is Bill Gates, who just donated $4.6 billion of a Microsoft stake to charity.

The world’s richest man donated 64 million of the Redmond, Washington-based company’s shares.

The donation, Gates’ biggest in 17 years, represents 5 percent of the billionaire philanthropist’s fortune. It also reduces his stake in Microsoft, the company he co-founded, to 1.3 percent.

While the lucky donee remains unnamed, netizens suspect the shares went to Gates’ own foundation.

The charity, set up by Gates and his wife to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty across the world, as well as improve educational opportunities and access to information technology in the U.S., has been the main beneficiary of prior donations from the business magnate.

Despite his extreme generosity, Gates is still the world’s richest man. He and wife Melinda aim to donate 95% of their wealth by the time of their passing. Now that’s something.

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