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4 considerations when taking responsibility for responsible AI

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4 considerations when taking responsibility for responsible AI

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This article was written by Micaela Kaplan, Ethics in AI Lead, CallMiner

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) have become ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From self-driving cars to our social media feeds, AI has helped our world operate faster than it ever has, and that’s a good thing — for the most part.

As these technologies integrate into our everyday lives, so too have the many questions around the ethics of using and creating these technologies. AI tools are models and algorithms that have been built on real-world data, so they reflect real-world injustices like racism, misogyny, and homophobia, along with many others. This data leads to models that perpetuate existing stereotypes, reinforce the subordination of certain groups of people to the majority population, or unfairly delegate resources or access to services. All these outcomes cause major repercussions for both consumers and businesses alike.

While many companies have begun recognizing these potential problems in their AI solutions, only a few have begun building the structures and policies to address them. The fact is that AI and social justice can no longer operate as two separate worlds. They need the influence of each other to create tools that will help us build the world we want to see. Addressing the ethical questions surrounding AI and understanding our social responsibilities is a complicated process that involves the challenging work and dedication of many people. Below are a few actionable things to keep in mind as you begin the journey towards responsible AI.

Create a space that allows people to voice their questions and concerns

When studying ethics in any capacity, facing uncomfortable truths comes with the territory. The strongest teams in the fight for responsible AI are those that are honest with themselves. These teams acknowledge the biases that appear in their data, their models, and themselves. They also consider how these biases affect the world around them. Noticing and acting on the biases and impacts requires honest group discussion.

Dedicating the time and space to have these conversations is critical in ensuring that these conversations can be just that — conversations. As teams, we need to create spaces that allow us to speak freely on topics that might be controversial without fear of consequences. This fundamentally requires the support of executives. Sometimes, it might be easier to have a team meet and discuss without executives and then present the group’s ideas to the executives later. This level of anonymity can help provide a sense of security, because ideas presented on behalf of the team cannot be traced back to a single person. Allowing for open communication and honest feedback is what allows us to confront these questions productively. In the fight for ethical AI, it’s not a team against each other; it’s the team against the potential problems in the model.

Know what to look for, or at least where to start

Finding the problems in AI solutions can be tricky. The weak performance of a model on a training set may indicate that the training population doesn’t represent the real world. Low minority representation could result in, for example, a speech tool that misinterprets accents or a filter that only recognizes white faces. There are many other cases that could arise, and knowing where to look can feel difficult.

The best way to spot bias or other concerns in your model is to pay attention and be intentional in your testing. In recent years, there has been a push in the academic community to create Datasheets for Datasets. These datasheets are intended to bring awareness to what is and is not included in a dataset so that teams can ensure that the data they use is intended for their purpose and represents their user base. Creating these datasheets for your own datasets is a great way to ensure awareness of your data populations. Similarly, it is important to test model performance on minority populations. A model that performs significantly better on a majority population versus a minority population is very likely to raise ethical questions in the future.

Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be

Successful teams consist of people who are diverse in all facets of their lives, including age, experiences, and backgrounds. That comes with a diverse understanding of what the ethical questions around AI are in the first place. The ever-growing body of research and discourse around responsible AI is full of terms and concepts that might not be familiar to everyone. Some people may feel passionate about the social justice issues at hand, while others may not have even heard of some of them. Everyone’s voice on the team deserves to be heard and creating a common language and framework to discuss and understand is crucial to building ethical AI.

Take the time, both individually and as a team, to research the issues and questions you want to discuss. Use the spaces you’ve created for discussion to help each other unpack and understand the issues and questions at hand, free from judgment. Going over key terms and ideas ensures that everyone is using the same language to talk about the same ideas. Dispelling any potential miscommunications will allow for more constructive conversations down the line. When we can learn to listen to those who are different from us when they point out a concern, we can address the problems when we see them.

Have the courage to adapt as you learn

While it’s critical to stay up-to-date on current topics in social justice and AI, it’s equally as essential to be willing to embrace the unknown. The process towards responsible AI involves anticipating change, being open to continuous learning, and knowing that problems may arise that don’t have clear-cut answers.

AI is a fast-paced industry and being agile and prepared to pivot an approach is often part of the game. However, being willing to change an approach for ethical reasons, or halting progress to de-bias a tool that is already available to users, takes courage. These choices are often harder to explain than changes made for productivity or the bottom line. The goal should not only be to bring a tool or model through the production pipeline successfully. The goal should be to stay on the cutting-edge of AI technology innovation while ensuring that the end product is fair and representative of the world we live in.

Responsible AI is everyone’s responsibility

Ensuring that models are built to fight injustice instead of perpetuating it is our collective responsibility. It’s a job that needs to begin in ideation, be a fundamental part of the research and development lifecycle and continue through release and the rest of the product’s lifecycle. Data science and research teams, along with other teams committed to ensuring responsible AI, will never succeed without executive-level support. Companies and institutions that view responsible AI as a long-term commitment and measure success based on more than just revenue empower their teams to voice questions and concerns without fear of consequences. This allows for a cycle of reflection and revision that will help answer the ethical questions we ask around the building and use of AI. There will be mistakes along the way, and our job is not to avoid innovation to protect from potential harm. Instead, our job is to look at our advancements with a critical eye so that we can make the world a more just place.

Micaela Kaplan received her MS in Computational Linguistics at Brandeis University after graduating with BAs in Linguistics and Computer Science. She hopes to work towards a more ethical world, one project at a time.

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

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One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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Table of Contents

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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