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AI summit focuses on fighting hunger, climate crisis and transition to ‘smart sustainable cities’

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Artificial intelligence, or AI, is at the forefront of fighting hunger, mitigating the climate crisis and facilitating “the transition to smart sustainable cities”, said the chief of the UN agency which specializes in information and communication technologies, Houlin Zhao, kicking off the third AI for Good Global Summit in Geneva.

 “This summit is the leading United Nations platform for dialogue on artificial intelligence”, explained the Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on Tuesday, adding that it “also raises complex questions about privacy and trust and poses other challenges, from job displacement and potential bias in algorithms, to autonomous weapons and social manipulation”.

More than 2,000 participants from over 120 countries joined AI leaders and humanitarian actors to highlight its potential for advancing education, healthcare and wellbeing, social and economic equality and space research.

Unable to attend in person, Secretary-General António Guterres sent a message lauding “the promise” of AI while also warning against its potential dangers.

“If we are to harness the benefits of artificial intelligence and address the risks, we must all work together – Governments, industry, academia and civil society – to develop the frameworks and systems that enable responsible innovation”, he said. “These systems must be nimble and adaptable, capable of developing norms and self-regulation standards alongside legally binding laws and instruments when needed, as in the case of lethal autonomous weapons”.

Noting that the UN is “well placed” as a forum on “how best to guide progress to better serve humanity,” Mr. Guterres underscored that “we must seize the moment, in partnership, to deliver on the promise of technological advances and harness them for the common good”.

In his opening address, Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spelled out that climate change is accentuating the need for tailored information to improve resilience to extreme weather events.

“WMO deals with big data every day, running a 24/7 operational prediction system based on a huge amount of data gathered around the world,” he said, identifying AI as a potentially valuable tool to help meet this challenge.

Guided by its inter-disciplinary audience, this year’s summit aims to generate ‘AI for Good’ projects and ensure that associated technologies will be developed safely, allowing equal access for all.

Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said that 340,000 AI patent applications have been filed since the 1950s: “Artificial intelligence is one of the most important of the technologies that are currently transforming our economy and society.”

He acknowledged there were pressing economic, social and ethical questions surrounding AI, saying that “we are at an extremely early stage, but the common characteristic is that the underlying technological activity…is occurring at a much more rapid speed than our capacity to formulate” responses.

Organized by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – in partnership with the XPRIZE Foundation, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and 37 UN entities – the summit, which will run from 28-31 May, aims to identify practical applications of AI to accelerate the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Conversation centered around how to use AI and data to help find scalable solutions to the biggest challenges facing humanity,” XPRIZE CEO Anousheh Ansari said.

It will also debate unintended consequences of the AI revolution, and propose actions for high-potential solutions in achieving global scale, along with a so-called “learning day” to offer an audience with leading AI experts and educators.

“By bringing together AI technologists with leaders in government, industry, and humanitarian initiatives, new ways to apply AI to pressing world challenges are imagined and realized,” stressed Vicki L. Hanson, ACM CEO.

What is clear to ITU chief Zhao is that “no one nation, no one organization, no one company and no one community can meet these challenges alone”.

“The path to a transformative but also a safe, trusted and inclusive AI will require unprecedented collaboration between government, industry, academia and civil society”, he concluded.

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Safeguarding Your Mailbox from Spam, Hack & Phishing

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An email goes a long way before getting to the addressee. After all, malicious software may be introduced in this chain or the server owner intentionally takes certain actions to obtain confidential information and damage the mail server by sending spam. In addition, the recipient may be an attacker and use the information received for a personal gain.

However, that’s not all. An additional problem is associated with the massive use of personal mobile devices to access corporate mail services. In the case of a device hack, the company’s reputation is damaged and important information is lost or stolen. Luckily, all problems can be solved comprehensively. There are email protection systems and the spam email checker Cleantalk email checker that can help you do that.

 Email Security Methods

Comprehensive protection of information is aimed at the following tasks:

  • Ensuring the unhindered receipt of letters by the addressee, without the possibility of their interception, opening, reading, as well as the prevention of possible forgery;
  • Protection of information sent via e-mail from its distribution by an attacker without the knowledge of the sender;
  • Blocking and the automatic deletion of spam email entries and attempts to hack a mail server.

To achieve all the above goals, traditional cryptography methods are used, while protection against possible forgery involves the use of the electronic digital signature. The technical side of the security issue most often involves the installation of a special, independently compiled software module (plug-in) for the mail client. This is usually enough because this small-sized additional software automatically encrypts letters and signs them. Possible vulnerabilities in such a set of security measures appear only in the following cases:

  • The installation of clearly weak cryptographic algorithms;
  • Malfunctioning cryptographic algorithms or protocols involved;
  • Bookmarks originally made by the attacker into cryptographic algorithms that make it possible to crack email;
  • Actions of a virus capable of intercepting an already decrypted message on the device of the addressee or gaining access to the keys of the sender’s machine.

With an integrated approach to protecting mail or when using professional solutions, these vulnerabilities are identified and eliminated.

Antispam Action Algorithm

After checking the received message, the solution determines its status: spam, possible spam, or not spam. When analyzing email contents, the following assessment criteria are applied:

  • The blacklist of senders, as well as the list of spam phrases – If the sender is not present in the blacklist and contains no content considered as spam, the email is marked as not spam. If a sender is listed in the blacklist or there are “no-go” phrases in the email, the letter is blocked and doesn’t land in your mailbox.
  • Headers – The header text is analyzed using the special algorithm, embedded images and links are checked as well.
  • Email structure – By analyzing the email structure, its status can be determined as well.

Some services also check the IP address of a sender. In case the same IP is involved in many “email-sending” operations within a short period of time, it is considered a spam bot and all its activities are blocked on your end.

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UN and Sony PlayStation team up with new virtual experience to raise gamers’ awareness of climate change

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The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Sony PlayStation have teamed up to create an immersive virtual reality experience designed to increase global awareness about what a climate change-friendly lifestyle looks like.

For the first time, UNEP and Sony have collaborated using the DreamsTM platform to create an immersive video that seeks to bring viewers face to face with their individual carbon footprints. It takes the audience on a 5 minute journey through an average day, observing what they eat, how they travel and the homes they live in. The video ends with viewers witnessing a giant 34 meter high heaving ball illustrating the carbon footprint of an average person in a developed country.  

“COVID has brought unprecedented disruption to how we live our lives, but now as we move out of lock-downs, we have an opportunity to develop new habits that can keep us within the safe limits of a 1.5 degree world. We hope that this ‘virtual reality check’ will show people how beautiful and possible these new lifestyle choices are” said Ligia Noronha, Director of UNEP’s Economy Division

As a member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, launched in 2019 with the support of UNEP, Sony hopes to see more game designers becoming more deliberate about tackling climate change.  The Alliance hosted a Green Mobile Green Jam with 11 companies in April that will see more companies integrate green activations into their games.

Explaining this project’s approach, lead illustrator Martin Nebelong said, “Virtual reality is an extraordinary storytelling medium for climate change – as an artist, I wanted to design a beautiful and sometimes frightening experience that shows the true scale of our emissions and the impacts we should expect to see.  This is not possible in two dimensions.”  

Speaking in support of the initiative, Kieren Mayers, Director of Environment and Technical Compliance at Sony PlayStation said, “Gaming reaches a huge audience worldwide, and has the power to inspire social change. Sony Group has a global environmental plan “Road to Zero”, and following, and following our commitment at the September 2019 UN Climate Summit in New York, we have partnered with UNEP to explore various ways to use gaming and virtual reality to educate and bring messages of hope – and are excited to see this video using DreamsTM as one of the first initiatives from this.”

Viewers will not need virtual reality devices to experience it – the video will also be streamed through Youtube in a 360 degree format so that viewers can interact with the experience on desktops or mobile devices.  The video will also be shared via Earth School which has been visited by some 700,000 young people as a result of UNEP’s collaboration with TED-Ed for students and educators around the world.

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COVID-19 Hastens Automation, New APEC Report Finds

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image: APEC

The COVID-19 pandemic will accelerate the adoption of automation by firms and organizations across the region, according to a new policy brief by the APEC Policy Support Unit and The Asia Foundation, titled COVID-19, 4IR and the Future of Work.

Constraints to labor supply caused by movement restrictions, both domestically and globally, as well as the withdrawal of workers who are elderly or have pre-existing conditions are some of the push factors for firms to explore or even deploy automation in their operations.

A variety of stimulus and relief measures launched by governments to cushion the COVID-19 pandemic, such as lower interest rates and subsidies for going digital, may also provide incentives for more firms to automate business processes. The unintended impact of this scenario would be the risk of certain jobs being eliminated, which would contribute to creating further spikes in unemployment rates around the region.

The report calls on APEC policymakers to conduct a thorough risk assessment of jobs that may be impacted or eliminated by automation to understand the challenges faced by workers and the unforeseen impacts of crisis-response policies.

“It is impossible for us to talk about growth when people are struggling to secure their livelihoods,” Dr Rebecca Fatima Sta Maria, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat commented. “We have been mandated by ministers to prioritize the return of workers to employment. Our responsibility is to ensure that we support people at risk with greater inclusive policy instruments.”

Policymakers are advised to strengthen and expand social protection policies to protect workers and provide income security. APEC will also need to collaborate closely with the private sector to monitor automation trends and support the need for workforce upskilling and retraining.

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