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MIT Receives 20 Million To Research Autism


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced on Thursday a new center for autism research, launching with $20 million in initial funding courtesy of Broadcom (brcm) chief executive officer and MIT alum Hock Tan and former investment banker Lisa Yang.

The Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research, which will fall under the rubric of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research, will investigate “the genetic, biological, and neural bases of autism spectrum disorder,” according to MIT. An estimated one of 68 children (and one in 42 boys) in the U.S. are affected by autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control.The Institute draws researchers not only from MIT ranks but from Harvard, biotech companies, and other local institutions, she said. “There’s a collaborative spirit and a lot of cross-pollination with the medical schools. It is not territorial.”

The benefactors, who are parents of two children on the autism spectrum, hope their donation will ignite more support and research for more understanding of the disorder and alleviate its impact on those affected, according to MIT’s statement.

Study Reveal Uber Can Replace Taxis With less Cars


A new MIT study suggests that using carpooling options from companies like Uber and Lyft could reduce the number of vehicles on the road 75 percent without significantly impacting travel time.

The research team led by  Professor Daniela Rus of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), developed an algorithm that found that 3,000 four-passenger cars could serve 98 percent of taxi demand in New York City, with an average wait-time of only 2.7 minutes.

“Instead of transporting people one at a time, drivers could transport two to four people at once, results in fewer trips, in less time, to make the same amount of money,” says Rus, who wrote a related paper with former CSAIL postdoc Javier Alonso-Mora, assistant professor Samitha Samaranayake of Cornell University, PhD student Alex Wallar and MIT professor Emilio Frazzoli. “A system like this could allow drivers to work shorter shifts, while also creating less traffic, cleaner air and shorter, less stressful commutes.”

The MIT algorithm is more complex and improves over time, the study’s authors said. And despite the study’s conclusions, they say, it’s not meant to harm the taxi industry. In a phone interview, professor Daniela Rus of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) said the findings simply show a city’s transportation infrastructure could support fewer cars on the road at any given time.

According to their system, instead of working 12-hour shifts, you could work six- or eight-hour shifts. And you would make the same amount of money because it’s the same transportation need, it’s the same level of payment that flows through the system.

Ethnicity Of Developers & AI


Joi Ito, Director of the MIT Media Lab told President Obama that” it may upset some of his students at MIT, but one of his concerns is that it’s been a predominately male gang of kids, mostly white, who are building the core computer science around AI, and they’re more comfortable talking to computers than to human beings. A lot of them feel that if they could just make that science-fiction, generalized AI, we wouldn’t have to worry about all the messy stuff like politics and society. They think machines will just figure it all out for us. They think AI is an answer to “all the messy stuff like politics and society. They think machines will just figure it all out for us… Everybody needs to understand how AI behaves is important… because the question is, how do we build societal values into AI”.

Pondering questions:

If a health care AI system is designed by white males will it skew towards protecting the health of that group?

If the government uses AI systems for future services will it be fair to everyone?

AI systems learn from studying human behavior;However, there are large differences between people. For example: AI systems serving a Hispanic community will require AI systems trained on that population. It will require ethnic profiling.

Similarly, the best AI systems will understand women’s needs and will learn from profiling that population.

Questionable Issues: Will AI systems for African-Americans have to be developed by African-Americans in order to be accepted? Women for women, etc?


3D Movies Without The Glasses


MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has created movie screen technology that lets you watch 3D movies without glasses.

Don’t expect Cinema 3D any time soon. The only current working model is about the size of an iPad, and it requires a lot of mirrors and lenses.

Riffle- More Secure Anonymity Than TOR


A team of researchers led by MIT grad student Albert Kwon (with help from EPFL) aims to leapfrog Tor’s anonymizing technique with a brand new platform called Riffle.

Tor — has prompted computer scientists to try to come up with more secure anonymity schemes. At the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in July, researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne will present a new anonymity scheme that provides strong security guarantees but uses bandwidth much more efficiently than its predecessors.

The system is devised by Albert Kwon and his coauthors — his advisor, Srini Devadas, the Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT; David Lazar, also a graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science; and Bryan Ford SM ’02 PhD ’08, an associate professor of computer and communication sciences at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne — employs several existing cryptographic techniques but combines them in a novel manner.

The system is a series of servers called a mixnet. Each server permutes the order in which it receives messages before passing them on to the next. If, for instance, messages from senders Alice, Bob, and Carol reach the first server in the order A, B, C, that server would send them to the second server in a different order — say, C, B, A. The second server would permute them before sending them to the third, and so on. An adversary that had tracked the messages’ points of origin would have no idea which was which by the time they exited the last server. It’s this reshuffling of the messages that gives the new system its name: Riffle. Riffle also uses a technique known as onion encryption; “Tor,” for instance, is an acronym for “the onion router.” With onion encryption, the sending computer wraps each message in several layers of encryption, using a public-key encryption system like those that safeguard most financial transactions online. Each server in the mixnet removes only one layer of encryption, so that only the last server knows a message’s ultimate destination.

To thwart message tampering, Riffle uses a technique called a verifiable shuffle. Because of the onion encryption, the messages that each server forwards look nothing like the ones it receives; it has peeled off a layer of encryption. But the encryption can be done in such a way that the server can generate a mathematical proof that the messages it sends are valid manipulations of the ones it receives. Mixnets has been around for awhile, but unfortunately it’s always relied on public-key cryptography and on public-key techniques, and has been expensive. Whats different about this research is that it reveals how to  use more efficient symmetric-key techniques to accomplish the same thing. They do one expensive shuffle using known protocols, but then they bootstrap off of that to enable many subsequent shufflings.


There’s no plan to commercialize Riffle, either, nor will it be a replacement for Tor, even though it does some things vastly better.

Social Influence Bias Experiement

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 According to new research, other people’s opinions online affect the way you think about something. Findings published from a study led by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, MIT, and NYU, tests show that group mentality online does sway individual opinion and action. 

The experiment involved a website  where users submit articles, can comment on those articles and vote comments up or down. The site requested to remain nameless in order to allow the experiment.

During the test, researchers randomly voted positively, negatively or not at all on comments in more than 100,000 posts. Each comment received a calculated rating by subtracting the negative votes from the positive votes. According to the research, popular opinion tended to become a self-fulfilling, 

Sinan Aral is a lead researcher in the study says  “people will go along with positive opinions but are more skeptical of the negative opinions of others.” Several media outlets reporting on this study speculated on the affect of reviews and ratings on sites like TripAdvisor, Amazon and Yelp – reviews that help people make buying decisions every day, even when some of them could be fabricated or perhaps even subconsciously biased. 

Recently, Yelp tackled the issue of fake reviews in a blog post, assuring readers it has processes in place for identifying those fictional biases that could occur.

But what happens when the popular opinion is purely fabricated by groupthink? According to this study, popular opinion is purely fabricated by groupthink. In business, groupthink can be attributed to bad decisions that aren’t grounded in reason. In society, groupthink ( a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people) can evolve into something ugly with detrimental consequences. 

Preventing Groupthink

  1. Leaders should assign each member the role of “critical evaluator”. This allows each member to freely air objections and doubts.
  2. Leaders should not express an opinion when assigning a task to a group.
  3. Leaders should absent themselves from many of the group meetings to avoid excessively influencing the outcome.
  4. The organization should set up several independent groups, working on the same problem.
  5. All effective alternatives should be examined.
  6. Each member should discuss the group’s ideas with trusted people outside of the group.
  7. The group should invite outside experts into meetings. Group members should be allowed to discuss with and question the outside experts.
  8. At least one group member should be assigned the role of Devil’s advocate. This should be a different person for each meeting.





MIT graduate Chris Benson, along with co-founders from the Singapore University of Technology and Design created a solution to the problem of digging through your bag for a transport card.

The “Sesame Ring” is a 3D-printed piece of wearable technology embedded with an RFID chip that makes it easy to access MBTA train stations.


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