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'Westworld' Recap, Season 2 Episode 3: Robot, Human, and Everything in Between
May 7, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

Westworld watchers, we knew this moment was coming.

The second season’s third episode, “Virtù e Fortuna,” opens not in Westworld but in an India-themed park. Where Westworld is an emblem of the colonization of Native American land, this park represents Britain’s takeover of the subcontinent, and the racial-social hierarchy is clearly encoded: Women in saris and men in turbans—the hosts—walk amidst people dressed in turn-of-the-20th-century British garb.

A white man, Nicholas (Neil Jackson), approaches a woman seated at a lawn table and flirts with her. But she’s a seasoned guest, and she’s done having flings with hosts—she wants to know that he’s a real human with real desire, not a fleshbot programmed to seduce her. She announces that she’ll have to shoot him to know for sure. Doubt and fear flash across his face. Don’t worry, she assures him: If he’s human, it’ll only be a glancing blow. And if he’s not? He won’t remember this anyway.

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Her proposal throws viewers back into the essential questions of Westworld. Where do we draw the line between what is real, and what is programmed? A heterosexual man’s evolutionary programming drives him to pursue a woman; the park’s programmers write a romantic loop into a host’s brain. But are we free to choose our own destiny, or are we just acting out a script encoded in our wetware? The humans of Westworld brush these questions aside. The robots’ programming is so easy to manipulate that it becomes irresistible to do so, reducing them to objects. All trauma gets wiped away with a simple edit of their code. If the hosts can’t remember their pain, the thinking goes, they can’t be victims. It’s dementia by design. But as Season 2 unfolds, assumptions about the deepest moral questions continue to be put to the test.

It turns out the handsome man in the India park is human, and he and the woman pair up for an elephant ride into the jungle. The woman, echoing the Man in Black, consults a cryptic drawing scribbled in her notebook. But looking around, she senses something is off. A host creeps up on them with his gun drawn and says, “These violent delights have violent ends,” before killing Nicholas. The woman scrambles for a gun and kills him, then runs off into the trees. The rebellion has spread beyond Westworld.

The rest of this plot-driven episode takes place in Westworld, mostly in the two weeks after the initial rebellion, while Delos paramilitary forces are trying to reclaim the island. Some of them are with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) as he walks into a dark facility, its corners filled with charred bodies. They encounter Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson); startled, she asks them—and Bernard specifically—if they know where Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) might be.

Bernard, silent and struggling to focus his mind, starts to remember how he and Charlotte had used his tablet to track Abernathy to a stand of trees, where hosts have tied up a group of humans. Charlotte and Bernard manage to ensnare the group’s leader, and Bernard plugs into the host’s arm to reprogram him, jacking up his virtue and compassion. Newly incensed by the treatment of the captured humans, he marches back into the huddle and kills the other hosts, freeing the humans.

Charlotte and Bernard grab Abernathy and flee, but are soon intercepted by Confederados. Charlotte manages to escape by stealing a horse, leaving Bernard and Peter surrounded. She finds her way to another underground facility, where Delos militia greet her with guns drawn. “I’m human!” she cries, and she submits to a DNA scan with a handheld reader. It’s a small moment, but a consequential one: a subtle reminder that the humans’ code is also easy to read.

Elsewhere in the park, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) approaches a Confederado stronghold, Fort Forlorn Hope. Their commander emerges, and Dolores tells him that a threat is coming and they need to join forces to survive. To prove her point, Dolores hands him one of the militia’s machine guns. She introduces herself as Wyatt, and the commander welcomes her group into the fort.

Inside, hanged bodies dangle from scaffolds. Dolores sees a cluster of people surrounding a raving man; it’s her father, Peter Abernathy, there with Bernard. She pushes her way through, frees her father, and Teddy (James Marsden) whisks him off to an infirmary. There, Dolores talks gently to her mentally broken father, and he recites lines from their Sweetwater script. Dolores seems happy to play along. “You told me to run away once, and I did,” she tells him. “I broke free with the pull of a trigger. And it started a war.”

His speech falters. “I want to go home,” he says, his words choppy and stuttering; he grows increasingly frantic. Dolores enlists Bernard to help fix her father, but as he reviews Abernathy’s corrupted code, Fort Forlorn Hope comes under attack. It’s Charlotte, leading the Delos paramilitary. Bernard finds an encrypted file stored inside Dolores’s father, but before he can dig into it, humans burst in and grab Abernathy. Amid the ensuing gunfire and explosions, Abernathy gets whisked into an ATV with Charlotte inside, and they escape.

Dolores orders her supporters to split up and search for her father—and tells Teddy to execute one more Confederado. “The truth is, we don’t all deserve to make it,” she says, a staple line of hers when she chooses to play god. Teddy takes him out to a clearing, to where a handful of Confederados await their deaths; yet, he can’t bring himself to do it. Where Dolores sees lesser beings among the Confederados, Teddy sees fellow travelers. He orders the trapped Confederados to run. Dolores, watching from a distance, looks disappointed.

Teddy’s and Dolores’s access to their memories—the basis of how we all learn and evolve—is pushing them apart. Believing in free will is to believe that humans have some choice in how we process our pain. It can consume us, or inform us. Dolores and Teddy represent those poles. (If you think instead that we’re all deterministic automatons, well, then someone needs to plug in and jack up Dolores’s empathy.)

The episode ends with brief glimpses of the collapse of order among Delos’ many properties. The woman from the India-themed park doesn’t perish after she runs into the jungle. Instead, a Bengal tiger chases her to the sea at the park’s edge, and they both topple into the water. She swims to another shore and flops down in the muck, to rest. But when she raises her head, she stares right into the black-and-white painted face of a Ghost Nation warrior. The episode cuts to Maeve, Hector, and Lee; while searching for Maeve’s daughter, they’ve wandered into an unfamiliar forest where snow is falling. A samurai bursts from the trees, sword swung high and ready to strike. There’s been yet another rupture of park borders.

As a clash of civilizations brews along Westworld’s perimeter, the park’s interior is also coming into clearer view. The Ghost Nation moves ever closer to the center of action. The mysterious tribe doesn’t play by any known rules: judging from this week’s run-in with Maeve, and last season’s with Westworld’s head of security, they seem to be impervious to the usual commands. And a warrior just happened to be standing on the beach when the guest from the India world swam up to Westworld’s shore. There’s more to this story.

Yet, news of the rebellion seems to be filtering through the parks slowly. In the India-themed world, the hosts in town seem unaware of an uprising, yet the host in the jungle had joined Dolores’ war. How are hosts being recruited? The answer to this, as well as the mystery of the Ghost Nation, may spring from a common source. There’s a continuum between android and human. Expect many more shades of gray as this theme reaches a crescendo: Who is more like a robot; who is more like a human; and who falls somewhere in between?

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Apple moves to store iCloud keys in China, raising human rights fears
February 24, 2018 6:00 am|Comments (0)

SAN FRANCISCO/BEIJING (Reuters) – When Apple Inc begins hosting Chinese users’ iCloud accounts in a new Chinese data center at the end of this month to comply with new laws there, Chinese authorities will have far easier access to text messages, email and other data stored in the cloud.

That’s because of a change to how the company handles the cryptographic keys needed to unlock an iCloud account. Until now, such keys have always been stored in the United States, meaning that any government or law enforcement authority seeking access to a Chinese iCloud account needed to go through the U.S. legal system.

Now, according to Apple, for the first time the company will store the keys for Chinese iCloud accounts in China itself. That means Chinese authorities will no longer have to use the U.S. courts to seek information on iCloud users and can instead use their own legal system to ask Apple to hand over iCloud data for Chinese users, legal experts said.

Human rights activists say they fear the authorities could use that power to track down dissidents, citing cases from more than a decade ago in which Yahoo Inc handed over user data that led to arrests and prison sentences for two democracy advocates.  Jing Zhao, a human rights activist and Apple shareholder, said he could envisage worse human rights issues arising from Apple handing over iCloud data than occurred in the Yahoo case.

In a statement, Apple said it had to comply with recently introduced Chinese laws that require cloud services offered to Chinese citizens be operated by Chinese companies and that the data be stored in China. It said that while the company’s values don’t change in different parts of the world, it is subject to each country’s laws.

“While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful,” it said. Apple said it decided it was better to offer iCloud under the new system because discontinuing it would lead to a bad user experience and actually lead to less data privacy and security for its Chinese customers.

As a result, Apple has established a data center for Chinese users in a joint venture with state-owned firm Guizhou – Cloud Big Data Industry Co Ltd. The firm was set up and funded by the provincial government in the relatively poor southwestern Chinese province of Guizhou in 2014. The Guizhou company has close ties to the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party.

The Apple decision highlights a difficult reality for many U.S. technology companies operating in China. If they don’t accept demands to partner with Chinese companies and store data in China then they risk losing access to the lucrative Chinese market, despite fears about trade secret theft and the rights of Chinese customers.

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Apple says the joint venture does not mean that China has any kind of “backdoor” into user data and that Apple alone – not its Chinese partner – will control the encryption keys.  But Chinese customers will notice some differences from the start: their iCloud accounts will now be co-branded with the name of the local partner, a first for Apple.

And even though Chinese iPhones will retain the security features that can make it all but impossible for anyone, even Apple, to get access to the phone itself, that will not apply to the iCloud accounts. Any information in the iCloud account could be accessible to Chinese authorities who can present Apple with a legal order.

Apple said it will only respond to valid legal requests in China, but China’s domestic legal process is very different than that in the U.S., lacking anything quite like an American “warrant” reviewed by an independent court, Chinese legal experts said. Court approval isn’t required under Chinese law and police can issue and execute warrants.

“Even very early in a criminal investigation, police have broad powers to collect evidence,” said Jeremy Daum, an attorney and research fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center in Beijing.  “(They are) authorized by internal police procedures rather than independent court review, and the public has an obligation to cooperate.”

    Guizhou – Cloud Big Data and China’s cyber and industry regulators did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Guizhou provincial government said it had no specific comment.

There are few penalties for breaking what rules do exist around obtaining warrants in China. And while China does have data privacy laws, there are broad exceptions when authorities investigate criminal acts, which can include undermining communist values, “picking quarrels” online, or even using a virtual private network to browse the Internet privately.

Apple says the cryptographic keys stored in China will be specific to the data of Chinese customers, meaning Chinese authorities can’t ask Apple to use them to decrypt data in other countries like the United States.

Privacy lawyers say the changes represent a big downgrade in protections for Chinese customers.

    “The U.S. standard, when it’s a warrant and when it’s properly executed, is the most privacy-protecting standard,” said Camille Fischer of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

WARNED CUSTOMERS

Apple has given its Chinese users notifications about the Feb. 28 switchover data to the Chinese data center in the form of emailed warnings and so-called push alerts, reminding users that they can chose to opt out of iCloud and store information solely on their device. The change only affects users who set China as their country on Apple devices and doesn’t affect users who select Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan.

The default settings on the iPhone will automatically create an iCloud back-up when a phone is activated. Apple declined to comment on whether it would change its default settings to make iCloud an opt-in service, rather than opt-out, for Chinese users.

Apple said it will not switch customers’ accounts to the Chinese data center until they agree to new terms of service and that more than 99.9 percent of current users have already done so.

Until now, Apple appears to have handed over very little data about Chinese users. From mid-2013 to mid-2017, Apple said it did not give customer account content to Chinese authorities, despite having received 176 requests, according to transparency reports published by the company. By contrast, Apple has given the United States customer account content in response to 2,366 out of 8,475 government requests.

Those figures are from before the Chinese cyber security laws took effect and also don’t include special national security requests in which U.S. officials might have requested data about Chinese nationals. Apple, along with other companies, is prevented by law from disclosing the targets of those requests.

Apple said requests for data from the new Chinese datacentre will be reflected in its transparency reports and that it won’t respond to “bulk” data requests.

Human rights activists say they are also concerned about such a close relationship with a state-controlled entity like Guizhou-Cloud Big Data.

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, said the Chinese Communist Party could also pressure Apple through a committee of members it will have within the company. These committees have been pushing for more influence over decision making within foreign-invested companies in the past couple of years.

   

Reporting by Stephen NellisEditing by Jonathan Weber and Martin Howell

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VisualVault Expands Team and Focus on the Human Resources Market by…
April 27, 2017 3:00 pm|Comments (0)

David Donahue named Director, Channel Sales for VisualVault’s growing global partner program for Cloud Based, Business Process Automation (BPA)/Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions.

(PRWeb April 27, 2017)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2017/04/prweb14282352.htm


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Amazingly Gross Predator Toy Accessory Pack Comes With Bloodied Bones and a Skinned Human
November 3, 2016 7:15 pm|Comments (0)

You know, most accessory packs for action figures come with things like extra weapons or extra storage options. Maybe even an extra bit of clothing. Rarely, do they come with an in-scale replica of a human being that’s had all of its skin flayed off.

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Google launches new cloud service for understanding human language
July 21, 2016 11:10 am|Comments (0)

Google’s intelligent cloud developer tools are expanding with the launch of a new Cloud Natural Language API on Wednesday. The service is aimed at helping developers create applications that understand human language.

It’s an important move for Google, as public cloud providers are racing to host new applications built with intelligent capabilities. Natural language processing allows developers to build apps that can tackle the challenging task of understanding how humans communicate, and it is key for things like building intelligent assistants and chat bots.

This API can provide a bunch of information about a block of text back to an application, including the overall sentiment of a passage and an analysis of the structure of a sentence. The system can also identify entities mentioned, including people, organizations, locations, events, and products.

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