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Piracy is Ethically Acceptable For Many Harvard Lawyers, Research Finds

Fri, 2019-06-07 20:50
Most people know all too well that it's against the law to share a pirated copy of a movie or TV-show. Law and ethics are not always in sync. Not even among those who are schooled as lawyers. From a report: This is the conclusion of an intriguing new study conducted among Harvard lawyers by Prof. Dariusz Jemielniak and Dr. Jerome Hergueux. The research, published in The Information Society journal, found that many lawyers believe that casual piracy is ethically acceptable. The researchers polled the perceptions of more than 100 international Masters of Law (LL.M.) students at Harvard, who all have a law degree. They were asked to evaluate how acceptable various piracy scenarios are, on a five-point scale going from very unacceptable to very acceptable. The piracy scenarios ranged from downloading a TV-show or movie which isn't legally available, through pirating music to simply save money, to downloading content for educational or even commercial purposes. In total, 19 different alternatives were presented. While the researchers expected that lawyers would have conservative ethical positions when it comes to piracy, the opposite was true. The average of all answers was 3.23, which means that it leans toward the "acceptable" point of the scale. "We find that digital file sharing ranks relatively high in terms of ethical acceptability among our population of lawyers -- with the only notable exception being infringing copyright with a commercial purpose," the researchers conclude.

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Congress To Investigate Deepfakes

Fri, 2019-06-07 20:10
The House Intelligence Committee will next week examine the risks posed by deepfakes, artificial intelligence technology that can create realistic-looking fake videos, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said this week. From a report: Schiff, a California Democrat, said he feared that Russia could engage in a "severe escalation" of its disinformation campaign targeting the United States ahead of the 2020 US presidential election. "And the most severe escalation might be the introduction of a deep fake -- a video of one of the candidates saying something they never said," Schiff said. Schiff made the comments during an interview with CNN's Washington Bureau Chief Sam Feist at the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday. He said that while the doctored video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that went viral on social media two weeks ago was not a deepfake, it was an example of how manipulated media could be used. "That was what's called a cheap fake; very easy to make, very simple to make, real content just doctored," Schiff sad. "But if you look back at how impactful the Mitt Romney videotape about the 47% was, you could imagine how a videotape that is more incendiary could be election-altering."

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FedEx Reduces Amazon Ties as Retailer Flexes Delivery Muscles

Fri, 2019-06-07 19:30
FedEx said it wouldn't renew its U.S. air-delivery contract with Amazon.com, paring a key customer relationship as the largest online retailer deepens its foray into freight transportation. From a report: The delivery giant will instead focus on "serving the broader e-commerce market" with U.S. package volume from online shopping expected to double by 2026, according to a FedEx statement Friday. The Amazon contract expires at the end of this month, and doesn't cover international services or domestic operations at other units such as FedEx's ground deliveries. FedEx's surprise move signals that the No. 2 U.S. courier will bank on smaller e-commerce customers that lack Amazon's bargaining power for big volume discounts. Amazon's emergence as a logistics giant is piling pressure on FedEx and United Parcel Service for cheaper and speedier deliveries, as the e-commerce powerhouse builds its own aircraft fleet and delivery capabilities. FedEx said Amazon represented 1.3% of sales last year.

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Want Someone's Personal Data? Give Them a Free Donut

Fri, 2019-06-07 18:50
Technology services provider Probrand has carried out a study at a cyber expo attended by UK security professionals, where attendees voluntarily shared sensitive data including their name, date of birth and favourite football team -- all to get their hands on a free donut. From a report: "We wanted to put this theory to the test and see just how willing people were to give up their data," says Mark Lomas, technical architect at Probrand. "We started by asking conversational questions such as 'How are you finding the day? Got any plans for after the event?' If someone happened to mention they were collecting their kids from school, we then asked what their names and ages were. One individual even showed a photograph of their children." As part of the task, Probrand also asked more direct questions such as, 'Which football team do you support?', 'What type of music are you into?' and 'What is your favourite band?' Whether asking questions transparently as part of a survey, or trying to adopt more hacker-type methods, they were alarmed to find how easy it was to obtain personal data -- which many people may be using as the basis of their passwords.

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Book Subtitles Are Getting Ridiculously Long. Blame it on SEO.

Fri, 2019-06-07 18:10
How many words can you fit in a subtitle? For a slew of modern books, the answer seems to be as many as possible. From a report: Just look at Julie Holland's "Moody Bitches: The Truth About the Drugs You're Taking, the Sleep You're Missing, the Sex You're Not Having, and What's Really Making You Crazy," Erin McHugh's "Political Suicide: Missteps, Peccadilloes, Bad Calls, Backroom Hijinx, Sordid Pasts, Rotten Breaks, and Just Plain Dumb Mistakes in the Annals of American Politics" and Ryan Grim's "We've Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement." Blame a one-word culprit: search. Todd Stocke, senior vice president and editorial director at Sourcebooks, said that subtitle length and content have a lot to do with finding readers through online searches. "It used to be that you could solve merchandising communication on the cover by adding a tagline, blurb or bulleted list," he said. But now, publishers "pack the keywords and search terms into the subtitle field because in theory that'll help the book surface more easily." He should know. Sourcebooks will publish Shafia Zaloom's "Sex, Teens, and Everything in Between: The New and Necessary Conversations Today's Teenagers Need to Have about Consent, Sexual Harassment, Healthy Relationships, Love, and More" in September. Amazon allows up to 199 characters for a book's title and subtitle combined, making the word combination possibilities, if not endless, vast. Anne Bogel, host of the podcast "What Should I Read Next?," is not generally a fan of the trend. "I don't feel respected as a reader when I feel like the subtitle was created not to give me a feeling of what kind of reading experience I may get, but for search engines," she said. When Bogel asked author friends how they came up with their subtitles, several told her they can't even remember which words they ended up using. That being said, sometimes titular long-windedness works.

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Smartphone Shipment Forecast Cut To 1.35 Billion For 2019 as Uncertainty Prevails

Fri, 2019-06-07 17:30
Research firm Canalys: Canalys released its updated global smartphone forecasts on 28 May 2019. The latest numbers show that smartphone shipments will reach 1.35 billion units in 2019, a year-on-year decline of 3.1%. Due to the many uncertainties surrounding the US/China trade talks, the US Executive Order signed on 15 May and subsequent developments, Canalys has lowered its forecasts to reflect an uncertain future. Canalys' base assumption is that restrictions will be imposed stringently on Huawei, once the 90-day reprieve expires, having a significant impact on its ability to roll-out new devices in the short term, especially outside of China. Canalys anticipates that Huawei is taking steps to mitigate the effect of component and service supply issues, but its overseas potential will be hampered for some time. The US and China may eventually reach a trade deal to alleviate the pressure on Huawei, but if and when this will happen is far from clear.

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Walmart Will Stock Your Fridge With Groceries While You're Not Home

Fri, 2019-06-07 16:51
A new service from Walmart will bring groceries straight from the store to your refrigerator. All that's needed is trust. From a report: As part of Walmart's new InHome Delivery service, the retailer's workers will deliver groceries right into a home or garage refrigerator, the company said Friday. Customers don't have to be home during deliveries. Walmart customers will be able to select the InHome option and a delivery date when ordering groceries online. An employee will then pick up the items at the store, deliver them to the house and place items that require cold storage in the refrigerator, Walmart said. To offer access to the home, customers will need to have a smart device that allows one-time entry. As for concerns over having strangers in the home, Walmart said employees will be equipped with a wearable camera that can be viewed live or accessed at a later time. Deliveries will be made by employees who've worked at the local store for at least a year.

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NASA To Open International Space Station To Tourists

Fri, 2019-06-07 16:09
NASA is to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020, priced at $35,000 per night. From a report: The US space agency said it would open the orbiting station to tourism and other business ventures. There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS. NASA said that private astronauts would be permitted to travel to the ISS for up to 30 days, travelling on US spacecraft. "NASA is opening the International Space Station to commercial opportunities and marketing these opportunities as we've never done before," chief financial officer Jeff DeWit said in New York. NASA said that private commercial entities would be responsible for determining crew composition and ensuring that the private astronauts meet the medical and training requirements for spaceflight. The two companies hired by NASA are Elon Musk's SpaceX, which will use its Dragon capsule, and Boeing, which is building a spacecraft called the Starliner.

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Facebook Suspends App Pre-installs on Huawei Phones

Fri, 2019-06-07 15:27
Facebook is no longer allowing pre-installation of its apps on Huawei phones, the latest blow for the Chinese tech giant as it struggles to keep its business afloat in the face of a U.S. ban on its purchase of American parts and software. From a report: Customers who already have Huawei phones will still be able to use its apps and receive updates, Facebook told Reuters. But new Huawei phones will no longer be able to have Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps pre-installed. Smartphone vendors often enter business deals to pre-install popular apps such as Facebook. Apps including Twitter and Booking.com also come pre-installed on Huawei phones in many markets. Twitter declined to comment and Booking did not respond to a request.

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Google Warns of US National Security Risks From Huawei Ban

Fri, 2019-06-07 14:40
Google has warned the Trump administration it risks compromising US national security if it pushes ahead with sweeping export restrictions on Huawei [Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], as the technology group seeks to continue doing business with the blacklisted Chinese company. Financial Times: Senior executives at Google are pushing US officials to exempt it from a ban on exports to Huawei without a licence approved by Washington, according to three people briefed on the conversations. The Trump administration announced the ban after the US-China trade talks collapsed, prompting protests from some of the biggest US technology companies who fear they could get hurt in the fallout. Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei's smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software. Google argues a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, according to people briefed on its lobbying efforts. Huawei has said it would be able to develop its own operating system "very quickly."

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EverQuest's Long, Strange 20-Year Trip Still Has No End in Sight

Fri, 2019-06-07 14:00
The world has immensely changed since 1999, when a company in Southern California launched an online game called EverQuest that would go on to serve as the model for many more titles to come in the massively multiplayer online RPG (MMORPG) space. And unlike many games that sought to replace it over the years, this one is still going strong. ArsTechnica has a long-form piece on the old game, its journey and what it has evolved into now. An excerpt from the story: This sword-and-sorcery-based game was developed by a small company, 989 Studios, but it eventually reached its pinnacle under Sony Online Entertainment after SOE acquired that studio roughly a year after the game's launch. Today, EQ marches on with a dedicated player base and another developer, Daybreak Games, at the helm. I've been a dedicated player since the early days, and others like me would likely acknowledge the game peaked early. A variety of factors have whittled down the once-mighty player base since: many just simply walked away, either busy with life or quit because it took up too much time. The impact of World of Warcraft over time is also undeniable. But while it's no longer a leading game in the MMO space by any stretch (WoW does hold that title), today's EQ retains a small but dedicated fanbase whose members complain as much as they praise it. And in an era where most games have a shelf life of four to six months, EQ has officially spanned four presidential administrations largely off that kind of support. [...] The game still has a trickle of new players, according to Longdale, but it's understandably hard to attract a whole new generation of young players to a DirectX 9 game with 15-year-old player models and a broken Z-axis (that's correct, you can't go straight up and down in EQ like in WoW) where solo play is darn near impossible.

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Model Aircraft Pilots Angry Over Drone Laws

Fri, 2019-06-07 13:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from the BBC: People who fly model aircraft are angry that proposed drone rules could damage their much-loved hobby. They argue they should not be classed as drone pilots. The new laws are intended to make airspace safer amid increasing drone use. The British Model Flying Association (BMFA) met the Aviation Minister Baroness Vere this week to discuss its concerns. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is currently consulting on proposals for a drone registration scheme that is due to become law in November. It has received 6,000 responses from BMFA members. David Phipps, chief executive of BMFA, said the proposed rules, which would see all pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles required to register, pay for a license and take competency tests every three years are "disproportionate" for model-aircraft flyers. "We have established an excellent safety record that surpasses commercial aviation over a century of flying. European laws grant special recognition to model flying, saying it should be treated differently but the UK has not done this." He acknowledged that while "some" would regard the proposed registration fee of 16.50 pounds as "not a lot of money", it still represented "a barrier to entry" especially for young people getting involved in the hobby. He added that plans for a safety test "which will be answering a few questions on the CAA's website" were far less rigorous than his organization's own safety tests. He worried that many of his members would simply ignore the new rules and "go under the radar." "It is becoming more and more obvious that we as aero modelers are being targeted because of the commercial value of the airspace that we occupy," said Cliff Evans, a model aircraft hobbyist who's unhappy with the new proposals. "I and all other modelers that I know find this offensive and unnecessary."

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Researchers Propose Solar Methanol Island Using Ocean CO2

Fri, 2019-06-07 10:00
A PNAS paper published this week outlines a plan to establish 70 islands of solar panels, each 328 feet in diameter, that sends electricity to a hard-hulled ship that acts as an oceanic factory. "This factory uses desalinization and electrolysis equipment to extract hydrogen gas (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) from the surrounding ocean water," reports Ars Technica. "It then uses these products to create methanol, a liquid fuel that can be added into, or substituted for, transportation fuels. Every so often, a ship comes to offload the methanol and take it to a supply center on land." From the report: The researchers estimated that we would need approximately 170,000 of these solar island systems to be able to produce enough green methanol to replace all fossil fuels used in long-haul transportation. While that seems like a lot, it's theoretically possible, even if we restrict these systems to ocean expanses where waves don't reach more than seven feet high and there's enough sunlight to meet the system's yearly average need. Still, the authors admit that this is just the description of a possible prototype: whether it's practical to build or not will depend on the cost of the technology that supports the system, as well as the cost of competing forms of energy used in transportation. Cleaning and maintaining this equipment in a marine environment is also a concern, and the researchers admit that there may be room for alternate setups (like making another fuel instead of methanol) that might make more economic sense. For now, though, it's a compelling idea to avoid additional fossil fuel extraction that is within reach using existing technology.

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NASA's Mars Helicopter Passes Another Flight Test

Fri, 2019-06-07 07:00
The autonomous rotorcraft NASA is planning to integrate with the agency's Mars 2020 rover mission has successfully passed another round of important tests. The Verge reports: Earlier this year, JPL conducted tests of the helicopter in "a simulated Martian environment" that put the helicopter through temperatures as low as minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit and flew it in a vacuum chamber that simulated Martian air -- it was also attached to a "motorized lanyard" to help simulate Martian gravity. Some of the testing was to ensure that the Mars Helicopter could survive the conditions it would experience during an actual rocket launch. The Mars Helicopter is now back at JPL, where it will has already had a new solar panel installed. NASA says that it isn't putting any science instruments on the helicopter beyond a camera, but that instead it's a "technology demonstrator" to prove that it's possible to remotely fly a Martian drone from Earth.

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Congress Scraps Provision To Restrict IRS From Competing With TurboTax

Fri, 2019-06-07 03:30
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProPublica: Congressional leaders are planning to scrap a provision of an IRS reform bill making permanent the Free File deal between the government and private tax filing companies, torpedoing a long-sought goal by industry giant Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. The development, first reported by Politico Pro and confirmed to ProPublica by a House Republican staffer, comes two months after an outcry sparked by our story on the Free File provision in a bill called the Taxpayer First Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support and contains a range of provisions including restrictions on the private debt collection of unpaid taxes, passed the House in April but stalled in the Senate. Under the Free File program, the industry promises to offer a no-fee option to most Americans and in return the IRS pledges not to develop its own free, online filing service. Such an IRS program would threaten the industry's profits. Only a small percentage of eligible Americans use the Free File options, and many are instead steered to paid products by the industry. The new bill, without the Free File provision, could be introduced today and voted on in the House as soon as next week, according to Politico. The Free File program will continue as before and will not be codified into law. "The current deal expires in 2021," reports ProPublica. "The IRS said in May that it was launching an internal review of the program, following our stories on how Intuit, H&R Block and other companies deliberately hid their Free File editions from search engines, making it harder for taxpayers to find them."

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Training a Single AI Model Can Emit As Much Carbon As Five Cars In Their Lifetimes

Fri, 2019-06-07 02:02
In a new paper, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, performed a life cycle assessment for training several common large AI models. They found that the process can emit more than 626,000 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent -- nearly five times the lifetime emissions of the average American car (and that includes manufacture of the car itself). MIT Technology Review reports: The researchers looked at four models in the field that have been responsible for the biggest leaps in performance: the Transformer, ELMo, BERT, and GPT-2. They trained each on a single GPU for up to a day to measure its power draw. They then used the number of training hours listed in the model's original papers to calculate the total energy consumed over the complete training process. That number was converted into pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent based on the average energy mix in the US, which closely matches the energy mix used by Amazon's AWS, the largest cloud services provider. They found that the computational and environmental costs of training grew proportionally to model size and then exploded when additional tuning steps were used to increase the model's final accuracy. In particular, they found that a tuning process known as neural architecture search, which tries to optimize a model by incrementally tweaking a neural network's design through exhaustive trial and error, had extraordinarily high associated costs for little performance benefit. Without it, the most costly model, BERT, had a carbon footprint of roughly 1,400 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent, close to a round-trip trans-American flight. What's more, the researchers note that the figures should only be considered as baselines. Using a model they'd produced in a previous paper as a case study, the researchers "found that the process of building and testing a final paper-worthy model required training 4,789 models over a six-month period," the report states. "Converted to CO2 equivalent, it emitted more than 78,000 pounds and is likely representative of typical work in the field."

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Google's Co-Founder Is Building a Gargantuan $150 Million Blimp

Fri, 2019-06-07 01:25
We first earned that Google co-founder Sergey Brin was secretly building a "massive airship" inside of Hangar 2 at the NASA Ames Research Center back in 2017, but few details on the project have emerged since. Now, according to a report from the Telegraph, progress on the project appears to be picking up as Brin is currently soliciting aerospace engineers to work on his blimp from a hangar in Mountain View, California. From a report: At 656 feet in length, the massive craft is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world upon completion, and it's reportedly costing Brin upwards of $150 million to construct. Some of that money will presumably go toward paying the $28 per hour salary and pension benefits Brin is offering entry level engineers to work on the project, according to the Telegraph piece, which notes that the job listing also requires that applicants be "comfortable working outdoors." As for why Brin wants to build this massive blimp, sources with knowledge of the project told The Guardian in 2017 that the Google billionaire plans to use craft as an intercontinental "air yacht," ferrying his friends and family around the globe in style. The blimp will also find use on the other end of the privilege spectrum, according to those sources, who told the newspaper that Brin envisions using it to deliver supplies and food to remote locations on humanitarian missions.

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The Man Whose Bizarre Tank Designs Made the D-Day Victory Possible

Fri, 2019-06-07 00:45
dryriver writes: In 1942, Allied troops tried to invade a French port at Dieppe. The troop landing was a disaster -- within 10 hours, 60% of the 6,000 allied troops that landed were dead, and all 28 tanks that were supposed to support the troops had been picked off by mines and anti-tank weapons. The Allies realized that conventional tank designs were next to useless when landing on heavily fortified sandy beaches. A British army commander named Percy Hobart had the solution. Over two years, he designed completely new and unconventional tanks like the Churchill AVRE, Sherman Crab and and Churchill Fascine that were custom-made to storm a mined beach defended by an enemy army. Commander Hobart had initially fallen out of favor, been retired early from the British army for his "unconventional thinking" and demoted, humiliatingly, to guarding his home village in Britain. When he managed to set up a meeting with Winston Churchill, Churchill reinstated Hobart, and Hobart went on to design some of the strangest looking beach lading tanks anyone had seen at that time. Hobart's tanks carried everything from flamethrowers intended to frighten German soldiers into surrendering to fascines (essentially a huge bundle of sticks) that could be dropped to allow other tanks to drive over deep ditches and trenches, to huge mortars firing shells the size of dustbins that were designed to blow holes into seawalls and concrete fortifications. The tank designs performed as Hobart had intended, and the D-Day victory would not have been possible without them. A man who had once demoted to Corporal and retired for rubbing the British army brass the wrong way went on to make D-Day winnable for the Allied forces.

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Apple Is Still Trying To Sue the Owner of an Independent iPhone Repair Shop

Fri, 2019-06-07 00:03
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Despite initially losing the case last year, Apple is continuing its legal pursuit against the owner of a small, independent iPhone repair shop in Norway. Apple is attempting to hold the repair shop owner liable for importing what it says are counterfeit iPhone screens into his home country of Norway. Last year, Apple sued Henrik Huseby, the owner of an independent smartphone repair shop called PCKompaniet in the town of Ski, Norway. Apple sent Huseby a letter notifying him that a shipment of 63 iPhone 6 and 6S screens had been seized by Norwegian customs, and said that he must pay the company $3,566 and admit wrongdoing to avoid being sued. Huseby refused, Apple sued him, and the case went to court. At issue in the case is the definition of what makes an aftermarket part "counterfeit." The screens that Huseby purchased were refurbished, he said, and were never advertised as official Apple parts and were thus not counterfeit. Apple logos on the screen were painted over, and wouldn't be visible anyway to anyone who used a repaired iPhone (the logos would face the inside of the phone.) In April 2018, the court decided that because the logos were not visible, Apple's trademark hadn't been violated, and Huseby won the case. Apple appealed that decision, however, and the case was reheard by a higher Norwegian court on Monday and Tuesday, leading right to repair activists to wonder why the most valuable company in the world continues to go after a small business owner over a paltry sum of money. "If he loses, the court would be saying you cannot import refurbished screens, and also, Apple doesn't provide original screens," said Kaja Juul Skarbo, who works for Restarters Norway, a group that organizes repair parties in the country. "So then, how is that a resolution? Obviously, independent repairers would not have the spare parts they need in order to be able to do the repairs. The consequence could be that you can't do independent repair anymore." Janet Gunter, co-founder of the UK's Restart Project, which advocates DIY repair in Europe, speculates that Apple could be testing the waters -- that if it is able to win against Huseby, other independent repair company owners who use aftermarket parts could be next.

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Alan Turing Receives a (Late) Obituary From the NYT

Thu, 2019-06-06 23:20
"In recent years, The New York Times has been publishing obituaries of people long dead but who nevertheless would have been deserving of one when they died," writes Slashdot reader necro81. "They call it their 'Overlooked' series. Today, their overlooked figure is British mathematician and prototype computer scientist Alan Turing." Here's an excerpt from the obituary: His genius embraced the first visions of modern computing and produced seminal insights into what became known as "artificial intelligence." As one of the most influential code breakers of World War II, his cryptology yielded intelligence believed to have hastened the Allied victory. But, at his death several years later, much of his secretive wartime accomplishments remained classified, far from public view in a nation seized by the security concerns of the Cold War. Instead, by the narrow standards of his day, his reputation was sullied. On June 7, 1954, Alan Turing, a British mathematician who has since been acknowledged as one the most innovative and powerful thinkers of the 20th century -- sometimes called the progenitor of modern computing -- died as a criminal, having been convicted under Victorian laws as a homosexual and forced to endure chemical castration. Britain didn't take its first steps toward decriminalizing homosexuality until 1967. Only in 2009 did the government apologize for his treatment. [...] A coroner determined that he had died of cyanide poisoning and that he had taken his own life "while the balance of his mind was disturbed."

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