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Google AI researcher's exit sparks ethics, bias concerns – Tech Xplore

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Google AI researcher's exit sparks ethics, bias concerns
This Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, file photo shows Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Prominent artificial intelligence scholar Timnit Gebru helped improve Google’s public image as a company that elevates Black computer scientists and questions harmful uses of AI technology. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Prominent artificial intelligence scholar Timnit Gebru helped improve Google’s public image as a company that elevates Black computer scientists and questions harmful uses of AI technology.

But internally, Gebru, a leader in the field of AI ethics, was not shy about voicing doubts about those commitments—until she was pushed out of the this week in a dispute over a examining the societal dangers of an emerging branch of AI.

Gebru announced on Twitter she was fired. Google told employees she resigned. More than 1,200 Google employees have signed on to an open letter calling the incident “unprecedented research censorship” and faulting the company for racism and defensiveness.

The furor over Gebru’s abrupt departure is the latest incident raising questions about whether Google has strayed so far away from its original “Don’t Be Evil” motto that the company now routinely ousts employees who dare to challenge management. The exit of Gebru, who is Black, also raised further doubts about diversity and inclusion at a company where Black women account for just 1.6% of the workforce.

And it’s exposed concerns beyond Google about whether showy efforts at ethical AI—ranging from a White House executive order this week to ethics review teams set up throughout the tech industry—are of little use when their conclusions might threaten profits or national interests.

Gebru has been a star in the AI ethics world who spent her early tech career working on Apple products and got her doctorate studying computer vision at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

She’s co-founder of the group Black in AI, which promotes Black employment and leadership in the field. She’s known for a landmark 2018 study that found racial and in .

Gebru had recently been working on a paper examining the risks of developing computer systems that analyze huge databases of human language and use that to create their own human-like text. The paper, a copy of which was shown to The Associated Press, mentions Google’s own new technology, used in its search business, as well as those developed by others.

Besides flagging the potential dangers of bias, the paper also cited the environmental cost of chugging so much energy to run the models—an important issue at a company that brags about its commitment to being carbon neutral since 2007 as it strives to become even greener.

Google managers had concerns about omissions in the work and its timing, and wanted the names of Google employees taken off the study, but Gebru objected, according to an exchange of emails shared with the AP and first who co-authored the 2018 facial recognition study with Gebru.

“She deserves more than Google knew how to give, and now she is an all-star free agent who will continue to transform the ,” Buolamwini said in an email Friday.

How Google will handle its AI ethics initiative and the internal dissent sparked by Gebru’s exit is one of a number of problems facing the company heading into the new year.

At the same time she was on her way out, the National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday cast another spotlight on Google’s workplace. In a complaint, the NRLB accused the company of spying on employees during a 2019 effort to organize a union before the company fired two activist workers for engaging in activities allowed under U.S. law. Google has denied the allegations in the case, which is scheduled for an April hearing.

Google has also been cast as a profit-mongering bully by the U.S. Justice Department in an antitrust lawsuit alleging the company has been illegally abusing the power of its dominant search engine and other popular digital services to stifle competition. The company also denies any wrongdoing in that legal battle, which may drag on for years.


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Samsung Galaxy S21 Thoughts and Impressions | The Startup – Medium

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Is it innovation? Or is it compensation?

Jan 16 · 9 min read

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Samsung S21 Family — From Samsung

I love phone announcement events.

The fanfare behind the announcement is extravagant, sometimes rightfully so, most of the time, not as rightfully so.

I’m still fascinated yearly by the over the top dramatics that circle around events like CES, and OEM announcements like Samsung’s Unpacked events.

2021 has been more virtual with tech events, but the underlying feelings have not changed.

Towards the end of CES tech enthusiasts and die-hard Samsung Fans alike were all wondering about what the next Galaxy S iteration would bring to the table. Considering we’re still knee-deep in a pandemic, it’s not surprising that events are different this year.

I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I read about the Galaxy S21. Samsung’s Unpacked Event was virtual this year, a testament to our inability to attend events in person.

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Samsung — Photo by Kote Puerto on Unsplash

This year, 2021, the year of calamity, foolishness, and masks, brings a series of devices that have confused me a bit. The devices announced are the Galaxy S21, the Galaxy S21+, and the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

I wonder if this is the company compensating for the mitigating factors surrounding money during the pandemic, or is it innovation instead of compensation?

Confused? Me too. Let’s get to the details first.

Yep, just like the iPhone, we’re having to deal with saying goodbye to another accessory that had a home in the flagship phone packaging.

You aren’t going to get a power brick when you purchase the phone. Yes, I was upset about this when I spoke about the iPhone 12, I know. But at this point, we’re all going to have to expect the lack of accessories with flagship phones. From iPhone 12 to Xiaomi, and now the S21 family of devices, it’s time to let go of the idea of having a charger with your new phone packaging. I mentioned it recently in my smartphone rumors and predictions, and I’m pretty confident that this is the only prediction I’m not wildly off base within 2021.

We went through this moment when the iPhone got rid of the headphone jack; we were alright. We’re going to eventually get over the charger not coming with the box too. I’m still not going to forget that Apple called the decision courageous. It’s alright.

Now, let’s talk about the Galaxy S21. Here are the particulars behind the Galaxy S21 family, available on January 29 all over the place.

Taking a look at all of the S21 options, we start with the base model Galaxy S21. I pulled the specs from Ars Technica which you can see below if you want the in-depth comparison.

Galaxy S21:

S21 Rear Camera — From Samsung

  • $799
  • IP68 Water Resistance
  • 6.2″ / 1080p / 120Hz Display (oh, the speed! the speed of it all!)
  • 8GB RAM (remember, the S20 had 12GB RAM)
  • Snapdragon 888 / Exynos 2100 (Everywhere Else)
  • 10MP Front Camera / 12MP Main, 12 Wide, 64 Telephoto Rear Camera Combo
  • 128GB/256GB storage options with no expandable storage
  • 4000mAh Battery (the power…Look at all of that power)
  • USB C charging with Wireless Charging Capabilities
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S21+, S21 Ultra — From Samsung

A few step-downs concerning storage not being expandable, the price, the refresh rate, the RAM, whatever. You can consider some of these specs as a reason for the lower price.

In light of some of the cutbacks concerning the S21/S21+, we still have an updated SoC with the Snapdragon 888, updated camera capabilities, and a dynamic refresh rate, which adapts the screen refresh rate to whatever is on the screen.

The dynamic refresh rate can help the display quality when watching Netflix, Facebook-ing (even though that is slowly becoming a pariah in this highly virtual world but we don’t want to talk about that now do we?) The display is the main thing that you will experience with the device, and it’s important to have the quality that Samsung has planned with its S21 displays.

Galaxy S21+

  • $999
  • 4800mAh Battery (the “oh the power phrase probably won’t read well if I put it here..will it?)
  • 6.7″ display
  • See Galaxy S21 specs posted above for the rest of the S21+ specs

We have the same general idea of specifications for the S21+ as there were for the base level S21. You can state that the S21+ is a larger version of the S21. You already knew that, that’s not what you are here for.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

  • $1199
  • 5000 mAh Battery (powerful..all-powerful…the power!)
  • 6.8″ 1440p 120Hz display
  • 128 / 256 / 512 GB storage options
  • Snapdragon 888 (US) Exynos 2100 (everywhere else)
  • 40MP Front Camera / 108 MP Main Camera/12MP Wide Angle, Dual 10MP telephoto Rear Camera combo
  • 12GB or 16GB RAM
  • USB C charging (wireless charging capable)
  • S-Pen Compatible (uh…okay)

The S21 Ultra is the best of the best, the cream of the crop when it comes to the S21 options. No compensating factors here, nothing keeping you from greatness when it comes to this phone.

The price of the S20 ultra started at $1400, and the S21 Ultra, with a respectable upgrade of its specifications, is priced lower.

Since the S20 ultra was a bit questionable when it came to camera quality, you can decide on whether the camera is more improved versus last year, or if it’s another half-done attempt at a high-end device.

A huge blaring question that comes out of the Galaxy S21 announcement is whether Samsung opted for compensation over innovation with this year’s phone launch.

I’d like to think that the decision to cut the price with the Galaxy S21 is more on the innovation front versus the compensation front. This was more of an effort to broaden the reach of the flagship offerings to more people across the world.

I’ve begun to think that pricing with phones has become less of a factor in 2021 than it has in years past. We always knew that the more money you spent on your smartphone upgrade, the better your upgrade. Budget smartphones were light years behind the flagship prices, and you saw people skipping car payments, rent, and medical bills to buy the latest iPhone or Android device on launch day.

While I still believe devices like the Galaxy Fold 2, the Galaxy Fold, and any Vertu device that I’ve ever seen in my lifetime are insanely priced; I don’t know if we can look at prices as much in 2021 as we did in 2017, when the iPhone X broke our pocketbooks.

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Note 10 — Photo by Mark Chan on Unsplash

The Samsung Galaxy S20, with its multiple iterations, was teetering towards overly expensive as well. A 200 dollar price drop is a welcome change that opens the company to a different demographic that might be looking for something a little more than the mid-range Galaxy A-Series devices.

Remember the days when we were appalled at the price of the iPhone X, and the Galaxy Note Series after the Galaxy Note 8? I remember those phones touching $1000 and the world screaming bloody murder. What a difference a few years makes.

I’ve had a history of complaining about electronics pricing. These days I have more reason to hold off on spending. Just about everything has cost more money in the middle of the pandemic, from toilet paper (quit hoarding toilet paper, yall) to gasoline, to the essentials that you need in your everyday life.

Personally, it has become difficult to find reasoning to splurge on items that I used to enjoy before the pandemic. Phones and other electronics being the main things I’d rather not spend money on.

My beliefs and difficulty in finding items to splurge on was a big reason as to why I had a slightly off reaction to the AirPods Max that launched in December. The headphones launched at $550, and they were expensive. Was I right in being angry about a pair of $550 headphones? Probably not, but here we are.

How can a company that has to have employees that were affected financially by the pandemic launch a device with a high price tag for the holidays? From what I’ve read, it appears that AirPods Max was well received at a launch. Never mind the price of the device, never mind people who are short on cash this year, there were still people who purchased the device.

So now we have the flipside of the coin. a series of devices that took a $200 price shave at launch for reasons including the current global pandemic. You’ll likely see the device launch with a trade-in deal, with the Galaxy Tags, money towards accessories, or whatever being bundled in as a part of the launch package. Take a look at the launch page for the S21 below:

The decision to launch the S21 series of devices lower than the S20 makes me realize that price isn’t always going to be a factor in flagship phones. There will be a market for people willing to spend thousands of dollars, and there’s going to be a market for people who think it’s crazy to spend thousands of dollars on phones.

Samsung’s pricing change could also be a decision that could help change the pricing structure of flagship phones across the board as we move through 2021. The pricing change may help more manufacturers realizing the need for a greater range of capable devices in the Android spectrum.

With the prevalence of higher-priced phones and the equal prevalence of more capable budget devices like the Moto G series, the LG Stylo, and OnePlus Nord, there are more options for capable devices for more people across the economic spectrum.

We are now looking at a world with people who need to look at devices as an investment. But at that same token, the investment is going to be at different price points.

I think Samsung made a pretty decent decision making that $200 shave with the S21. They’ve made an effort to make flagship devices available to more people. Samsung’s pricing decision seems innovative in its compensation.

The Galaxy S21 and S21+ aren’t very innovative. Save for the dynamic refresh rate, the 120Hz displays, and the different capabilities of the camera, there is not much to write home about with the Galaxy S21.

In 2021, where we are looking at finances as a focus of our everyday lives, Samsung was innovative in pricing their 2021 flagship devices. The innovation is in realizing that the company wants to have more people owning their flagship devices. The company realized that more people have less money as we continue through 2021.

We will always know Apple to be premium devices, with premium prices. The addition of the iPhone 12 Mini, and the revamp of the iPhone SE, is Apple’s way to appeal to those looking for a more affordable phone. Pricing the Galaxy S21 series of phones to put them closer to their more affordable options is Samsung’s move to market to more people.

Would I buy the S21? The outer specifications would lead me to want to purchase the device, sure. The camera should be decent and the display refresh rate is decent as well. The specifications previously announced by Samsung for the price are quality.

Having a company decide to lower their MSRP on a device is admirable, having a more affordable device with flagship specs is innovative from a regular consumer perspective.

I am still on the fence as to whether I would upgrade this year, or wait until things begin to ease around the world and the economy. I have held on to my iPhone 7 Plus for almost 4 years, and I’m pleased that my phone has not died yet.

The decision to buy the S21 is going to be up to you. Whether the price drop helps with your decision or not, buying this device is going to be up to you. Buying any device is going to be up to you.

Let me know if you buy an S21, I’d be interested in seeing what you think!

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Samsung SmartThings is now available on Android Auto [Update] – 9to5Google

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After announcing that a partnership with Google would bring Nest devices to SmartThings this year, Samsung is about to integrate with one of Google’s platforms. Alongside the reveal of the Galaxy S21 series, Samsung has revealed that SmartThings is coming to Android Auto.

Soon, the SmartThings app for Android will feature support for Android Auto. Samsung hasn’t confirmed exactly when this functionality is coming, only saying that the Galaxy S21 will be capable of running the feature.

Samsung explains that users will be able to “turn on your porch lights or even raise the temperature of your thermostat before you return home, all from your car.”

The UI seen shows an app on Android Auto with a selection of automations such as “Coming home” and “Going out.” This would allow a quick tap to perform actions such as turning on/off lights, opening/closing a garage door, or adjusting other devices. There’s also a “locations” button on the interface, but we can’t be sure what that does specifically just yet. It’s also unclear if this SmartThings app will feature any integration with Google Assistant on Android Auto.


Update 1/18: Samsung’s latest SmartThings update brings support for Android Auto. As noted by Joe Kester on Twitter, the update adds an Android Auto section to the app on your phone where you can customize what six tiles appear in the Android Auto UI.

The latest SmartThings update is now available on the Play Store and also adds support for the Galaxy SmartTag.


More on Android Auto:

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Samsung's first update for the Galaxy Buds Pro is now available – MobileSyrup

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Despite only dropping last week, Samsung has already released the first update for the Galaxy Buds Pro.

The new update includes “left/right sound balance adjustment,” a new “hearing enhancements feature,” overall better “stability and reliability” and more.

The entire update measures in at just 2.2MB according to Samsung’s update page.

Galaxy Buds Pro update notification

While I’m impressed with the Buds Pro’s active noise-cancelling and unique ‘Voice Detect’ feature that allows you to hear someone talking even with ANC turned on, I found them surprisingly uncomfortable. I also find it strange that Samsung has dropped iOS support through the Galaxy Buds app with the Buds Pro.

For more on the Galaxy Buds Pro, check out my review of Samsung’s earbuds that aim to be the South Korean tech giant’s answer to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

The Galaxy Buds Pro are available now and cost $264.

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