App That Changes Selfie Age, Gender, Skintone – Creator Apologises For ‘Racist’ Filter

“The creator of an app which changes your selfies using artificial intelligence has apologised because its “hot” filter automatically lightened people’s skin.
FaceApp is touted as an app which uses “neural networks” to change facial characteristics, adding smiles or making users look older or younger. But users noticed one of the options, initially labelled as “hot” made people look whiter.
Yaroslav Goncharov, the creator and CEO of FaceApp, apologised for the feature, which he said was a side-effect of the “neural network”.
He said: “We are deeply sorry for this unquestionably serious issue.
“It is an unfortunate side-effect of the underlying neural network caused by the training set bias, not intended behaviour.”
The feature is still available but has now been renamed “spark”, in an attempt to “exclude any positive connotation associated with it”, Goncharov said.
He added: “We are also working on the complete fix that should arrive soon.”
In previous interviews Goncharov, who is a former Microsoft and Yandex engineer, said FaceApp differs from other face-tuning software, which usually adds filters, because it uses deep learning technology to alter the photo itself.”

– from ‘FaceApp apologises for ‘racist’ filter that lightens users’ skintone’, Elena Cresci, The Guardian, 25 April 2017

“I Changed My Hairstyle So Many Times Now I Don’t Know What I Look Like!” – from ‘Life During Wartime’, Talking Heads, from the essential ‘Fear Of Music’ album (1979).

Smartphones A Pain In The Neck

Spine surgeons are noticing an increase in patients with neck and upper back pain, likely related to poor posture during prolonged smartphone use, according to a recent report.
Some patients, particularly young patients who shouldn’t yet have back and neck issues, are reporting disk hernias and alignment problems, the study authors write in The Spine Journal.

In an X-ray, the neck typically curves backward, and what we’re seeing is that the curve is being reversed as people look down at their phones for hours each day, said study coauthor Dr. Todd Lanman, a spinal neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre in Los Angeles.
“By the time patients get to me, they’re already in bad pain and have disc issues,” he told Reuters Health.

The real concern is that we don’t know what this means down the road for kids today who use phones all day. …

While in a neutral position looking forward, the head weighs 4.5 to 5.5 kilograms. At a 15-degree flex, it feels like 12 kilograms. The stress on the spine increases by degree, and at 60 degrees, it’s 27 kilograms.

“For today’s users, will an eight-year-old need surgery at age 28?” Lanman said.

“In kids who have spines that are still growing and not developed, we’re not sure what to expect or if this could change normal anatomies,” he told Reuters Health. …

– excerpt and image from ‘Smartphone-related neck pain on the increase’, CBC, 14 April 2017

The article goes on to suggest ways of improving posture while texting … Texting less (or not at all) gets no mention! – AS

Look Around – “Read not the Times, Read the Eternities.”

“I have a theory — not a very good one — that the reason Google is so hot to develop self-driving cars is that time behind the wheel is the last significant part of our waking lives in which it’s inconvenient to use the internet. But that’s exactly why I prize long road trips, especially lately, in this era of gruesome political news and ceaseless social-media conflict: ambitious drives are a good excuse for being disconnected. Though it’s funny that “disconnected” is the word we use, since paying attention to what’s in front of you in the here and now used to be thought of as enlightening.

A few weeks back it fell to me to deliver a carful of books and household items to my wife, who was teaching in Las Vegas. From our home in western Montana, it’s a journey of almost nine hundred miles, most of them on I-15, a thinly populated north–south route that passes through only one major urban area, Salt Lake City. I’ve done the drive at least a dozen times, usually with my satellite radio playing and my phone turned on, but this time I decided to banish all distractions. “Read not the Times, Read the Eternities,” wrote Thoreau. Look around, I think he meant.”

– from ‘You Can Run…’, Walter Kirn, Harper’s, April 2017

Dangerous Selfies

Recent CNN headlines:
Teen accidentally kills self taking selfie
Suspects take selfies in epic high speed chase
Bride snaps selfie, dies 8 mins. later
Man fatally shot while taking selfie with gun
This selfie cost pilot his life

This story today:
Woman falls off California’s highest bridge while taking selfie
Police in a California county have a warning for camera-toting thrill seekers: “You can lose your life and none of that is worth a selfie!”
The message was posted on the Placer County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page after a woman fell 60 feet off the Foresthill Bridge on Tuesday. The 730-foot-tall bridge is the highest in California and one of the highest in the United States.
The Sheriff’s Office said the unidentified woman from Sacramento and a group of friends were walking on the bridge’s girders when she “attempted to take a selfie and fell. Landing on a trail below.”
The woman had to be airlifted to a nearby hospital. Paul Goncharuk, a friend, told CNN affiliate KOVR that “she was knocked unconscious, suffered a deep gash to her arm and fractured bones that will require surgery.”
Goncharuk, who told KOVR that he was there, also confirmed the police information, telling the affiliate that “they were taking a picture on the bridge, and then the big bolts that are holding the beams together, she stepped on them kind of weirdly and lost balance and fell backwards.”
The bridge’s off-limits underbelly seems to be a popular, but dangerous spot for social media posting.
Police have started patrolling the area after a series of pictures and videos of people dangling from walkways under the bridge.
“It’s a cool place to take pictures, but obviously not worth the risk,” Goncharuk told KOVR.
CNN 6 April 2017