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Faster than the speed of truth

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We’ve all done it: we’ve seen a dramatic and outrageous tweet purporting to reveal what a minister has said, or giving news of a catastrophe of some kind and reposted or retweeted. Later, we’ve had to eat a little humble pie after finding out that the tweet we shared was fake news.

By the time the realisation sets in, though, the damage is already done. Take, for example, the shocking news that emerged in 2013 that an explosion had occurred at the White House, injuring Barack Obama. After the tweet was shared more than 4 000 times, stock prices on the US stock markets began to drop with $130 billion lost in stock value.

“Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) looked at 126 000 stories that were circulating around the internet. They looked at 3 million accounts between 2006 and 2017 and what they found was that the fake news spread faster than the truth. The sensational nature of a lot of these stories is what makes them more likely to be retweeted,” says Indi Siriniwasa, Vice President of Trend Micro, Sub-Saharan Africa.

The intrepid MIT researchers also discovered that fake news will spread like wildfire between 1 000 to 10 000 Twitter users. The truth, however, could take six times longer to reach only 1 500 people.

These days one would assume that bots are being used to perpetuate fake news. This is not the case: humans spread fake news more fake news than any bots can. False political news was found to spread the fastest compared to news on terrorism, natural disasters, science or finance.

“Fake news can be seen as cyber propaganda and it shows no sign of slowing down. Fake news is used to influence opinions, discredit people in various industries, and of course, there is money in it. There are people who wish to run smear campaigns or who will benefit from the results of the propaganda, and there are people who are willing to be paid to make that happen,” Siriniwasa explains.

According to Trend Micro’s research, there is an underground marketplace for cyber propaganda, with discrediting a journalist costing US$ 55 000 and creating a celebrity with 300 000 followers going for as little as US$ 2 600. Ultimately, we as the readers of fake news, are the machine that keeps it growing.

“Think before you retweet or repost. There are developments going on in the background to provide a “trust indicator” to perhaps filter out the fake news. Until then, the onus is on the user, or the reader, to be the first line of defence. Exaggerated headlines are a giveaway. If the article can’t cite trustworthy sources, it is very likely fake. Check the facts. It’s best to get your news from established and reputable news authorities. Let the buck stop with you,” Siriniwasa advises.

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Earth 2050: memory chips for kids, telepathy for adults

An astonishing set of predictions for the next 30 years includes a major challenge to the privacy of our thoughts.

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Buy 2050, most kids may be fitted with the latest memory boosting implants, and adults will have replaced mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought.

These are some of the more dramatic forecasts in Earth 2050, an award-winning, interactive multimedia project that accumulates predictions about social and technological developments for the upcoming 30 years. The aim is to identify global challenges for humanity and possible ways of solving these challenges. The website was launched in 2017 to mark Kaspersky Lab’s 20th birthday. It comprises a rich variety of predictions and future scenarios, covering a wide range of topics.

Recently a number of new contributions have been added to the site. Among them Lord Martin Rees, the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Professor at Cambridge University and former President of the Royal Society; investor and entrepreneur Steven Hoffman, Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, along withDmitry Galov, security researcher and Alexey Malanov, malware analyst at Kaspersky Lab.

The new visions for 2050 consider, among other things:

  • The replacement of mobile devices with direct connectivity through brain implants, powered by thought – able to upload skills and knowledge in return – and the impact of this on individual consciousness and privacy of thought.
  • The ability to transform all life at the genetic level through gene editing.
  • The potential impact of mistakes made by advanced machine-learning systems/AI.
  • The demise of current political systems and the rise of ‘citizen governments’, where ordinary people are co-opted to approve legislation.
  • The end of the techno-industrial age as the world runs out of fossil fuels, leading to economic and environmental devastation.
  • The end of industrial-scale meat production, as most people become vegan and meat is cultured from biopsies taken from living, outdoor reared livestock.

The hypothetical prediction for 2050 from Dmitry Galov, security researcher at Kaspersky Lab is as follows: “By 2050, our knowledge of how the brain works, and our ability to enhance or repair it is so advanced that being able to remember everything and learn new things at an outrageous speed has become commonplace. Most kids are fitted with the latest memory boosting implants to support their learning and this makes education easier than it has ever been. 

“Brain damage as a result of head injury is easily repaired; memory loss is no longer a medical condition, and people suffering from mental illnesses, such as depression, are quickly cured.  The technologies that underpin this have existed in some form since the late 2010s. Memory implants are in fact a natural progression from the connected deep brain stimulation implants of 2018.

“But every technology has another side – a dark side. In 2050, the medical, social and economic impact of memory boosting implants are significant, but they are also vulnerable to exploitation and cyber-abuse. New threats that have appeared in the last decade include the mass manipulation of groups through implanted or erased memories of political events or conflicts, and even the creation of ‘human botnets’. 

“These botnets connect people’s brains into a network of agents controlled and operated by cybercriminals, without the knowledge of the victims themselves.  Repurposed cyberthreats from previous decades are targeting the memories of world leaders for cyber-espionage, as well as those of celebrities, ordinary people and businesses with the aim of memory theft, deletion of or ‘locking’ of memories (for example, in return for a ransom).  

“This landscape is only possible because, in the late 2010s when the technologies began to evolve, the potential future security vulnerabilities were not considered a priority, and the various players: healthcare, security, policy makers and more, didn’t come together to understand and address future risks.”

For more information and the full suite of inspirational and thought-provoking predictions, visit Earth 2050.

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Pizoelectrics: Healthcare’s new gymnasts of gadgetry

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Healthcare electronics is rapidly deploying for wellness, electroceuticals, and intrusive medical procedures, among other, powered by new technologies. Much of it is trending to diagnostics and treatment on the move, and removing the need for the patient to perform procedures on time. 

Instruments become wearables, including electronic skin patches and implants. The IDTechEx Research report, “Piezoelectric Harvesting and Sensing for Healthcare 2019-2029”, notes that sensors should preferably be self-powered, non-poisonous even on disposal, and many need to be biocompatible and even biodegradable. 

We need to detect biology, vibration, force, acceleration, stress and linear movement and do imaging. Devices must reject bacteria and be useful in wearables and Internet of Things nodes. Preferably we must move to one device performing multiple tasks. 

So is there a gymnast material category that has that awesome versatility? 

Piezoelectrics has a good claim. It measures all those parameters. That even includes biosensors where the piezo senses the swelling of a biomolecule recognizing a target analyte. The most important form of self-powered (one material, two functions) piezo sensing is ultrasound imaging, a market growing at 5.1% yearly. 

The IDTechEx Research report looks at what comes next, based on global travel and interviewing by its PhD level analysts in 2018 with continuous updates.  

Click here to read how Piezo has been reinvented.

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