Connect with us

This is an excerpt from The Chinese Computer: A Global History of the Information Age by Thomas S. Mullaney, published on May 28 by The MIT Press. It has been lightly edited.

ymiw2

klt4

pwyy1

wdy6

o1

dfb2

wdv2

fypw3

uet5

dm2

dlu1 …

A young Chinese man sat down at his QWERTY keyboard and rattled off an enigmatic string of letters and numbers.

Was it code? Child’s play? Confusion? It was Chinese.

The beginning of Chinese, at least. These forty-four keystrokes marked the first steps in a process known as “input” or shuru: the act of getting Chinese characters to appear on a computer monitor or other digital device using a QWERTY keyboard or trackpad.

Stills taken from a 2013 Chinese input competition screencast.
Stills taken from a 2013 Chinese input competition screencast.COURTESY OF MIT PRESS

Across all computational and digital media, Chinese text entry relies on software programs known as “Input Method Editors”—better known as “IMEs” or simply “input methods” (shurufa). IMEs are a form of “middleware,” so-named because they operate in between the hardware of the user’s device and the software of its program or application. Whether a person is composing a Chinese document in Microsoft Word, searching the web, sending text messages, or otherwise, an IME is always at work, intercepting all of the user’s keystrokes and trying to figure out which Chinese characters the user wants to produce. Input, simply put, is the way ymiw2klt4pwyy … becomes a string of Chinese characters.

IMEs are restless creatures. From the moment a key is depressed, or a stroke swiped, they set off on a dynamic, iterative process, snatching up user-inputted data and searching computer memory for potential Chinese character matches. The most popular IMEs these days are based on Chinese phonetics—that is, they use the letters of the Latin alphabet to describe the sound of Chinese characters, with mainland Chinese operators using the country’s official Romanization system, Hanyu pinyin.

A series of screenshots of the Chinese Input Method Editor pop-up menu showing the process of typing (抄袭 / “plagiarism”).
Example of Chinese Input Method Editor pop-up menu (抄袭 / “plagiarism”)COURTESY OF MIT PRESS

This young man’s name was Huang Zhenyu (also known by his nom de guerre, Yu Shi). He was one of around sixty contestants that day, each wearing a bright red shoulder sash—like a tickertape parade of old, or a beauty pageant. “Love Chinese Characters” (Ai Hanzi) was emblazoned in vivid, golden yellow on a poster at the front of the hall. The contestants’ task was to transcribe a speech by outgoing Chinese president Hu Jintao, as quickly and as accurately as they could. “Hold High the Great Banner of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” it began, or in the original: 高举中国特色社会主义伟大旗帜为夺取全面建设小康社会新胜利而奋斗. Huang’s QWERTY keyboard did not permit him to enter these characters directly, however, and so he entered the quasi-gibberish string of letters and numbers instead: ymiw2klt4pwyy1wdy6…

With these four-dozen keystrokes, Huang was well on his way, not only to winning the 2013 National Chinese Characters Typing Competition, but also to clock one of the fastest typing speeds ever recorded, anywhere in the world.

ymiw2klt4pwyy1wdy6 … is not the same as 高举中国特色社会主义 … the keys that Huang actually depressed on his QWERTY keyboard—his “primary transcript,” as we could call it—were completely different than the symbols that ultimately appeared on his computer screen, namely the “secondary transcript” of Hu Jintao’s speech. This is true for every one of the world’s billion-plus Sinophone computer users. In Chinese computing, what you type is never what you get.

For readers accustomed to English-language word processing and computing, this should come as a surprise. For example, were you to compare the paragraph you’re reading right now against a key log showing exactly which buttons I depressed to produce it, the exercise would be unenlightening (to put it mildly). “F-o-r-_-r-e-a-d-e-r-s-_-a-c-c-u-s-t-o-m-e-d-_t-o-_-E-n-g-l-i-s-h …

Read More

————

By: Tom Mullaney
Title: The quest to type Chinese on a QWERTY keyboard created autocomplete
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/05/27/1092876/type-chinese-computer-qwerty-keyboard/
Published Date: Mon, 27 May 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-head-transplants-and-filtering-sounds-with-ai/

Continue Reading

Tech

Unlocking secure, private AI with confidential computing

All of a sudden, it seems that AI is everywhere, from executive assistant chatbots to AI code assistants.

But despite the proliferation of AI in the zeitgeist, many organizations are proceeding with caution. This is due to the perception of the security quagmires AI presents. For the emerging technology to reach its full potential, data must be secured through every stage of the AI lifecycle including model training, fine-tuning, and inferencing.

This is where confidential computing comes into play. Vikas Bhatia, head of product for Azure Confidential Computing at Microsoft, explains the significance of this architectural innovation: “AI is being used to provide solutions for a lot of highly sensitive data, whether that’s personal data, company data, or multiparty data,” he says. “Confidential computing is an emerging technology that protects that data when it is in memory and in use. We see a future where model creators who need to protect their IP will leverage confidential computing to safeguard their models and to protect their customer data.”

Understanding confidential computing

“The tech industry has done a great job in ensuring that data stays protected at rest and in transit using encryption,” Bhatia says. “Bad actors can steal a laptop and remove its hard drive but won’t be able to get anything out of it if the data is encrypted by security features like BitLocker. Similarly, nobody can run away with data in the cloud. And data in transit is secure thanks to HTTPS and TLS, which have long been industry standards.”

But data in use, when data is in memory and being operated upon, has typically been harder to secure. Confidential computing addresses this critical gap—what Bhatia calls the “missing third leg of the three-legged data protection stool”—via a hardware-based root of trust.

Essentially, confidential computing ensures the only thing customers need to trust is the data running inside of a trusted execution environment (TEE) and the underlying hardware. “The concept of a TEE is basically an enclave, or I like to use the word ‘box.’ Everything inside that box is trusted, anything outside it is not,” explains Bhatia.

Until recently, confidential computing only worked on central processing units (CPUs). However, NVIDIA has recently brought confidential computing capabilities to the H100 Tensor Core GPU and Microsoft has made this technology available in Azure. This has the potential to protect the entire confidential AI lifecycle—including model weights, training data, and inference workloads.

“Historically, devices such as GPUs were controlled by the host operating system, which, in turn, was controlled by the cloud service provider,” notes Krishnaprasad Hande, Technical Program Manager at Microsoft. “So, in order to meet confidential computing requirements, we needed technological improvements to reduce trust in the host operating system, i.e., its ability to observe or tamper with application workloads when the GPU is assigned to a confidential virtual machine, while retaining sufficient control to monitor and manage the device. NVIDIA and Microsoft have worked together to achieve this.”

Attestation mechanisms are another key component of confidential computing. Attestation allows users to verify the integrity and authenticity of the TEE, and the user code within it, ensuring the environment hasn’t been tampered with. “Customers can validate that trust by running an attestation report themselves against the CPU and the GPU to validate the state of their environment,” says Bhatia.

Additionally, secure key management systems play a critical role in confidential computing ecosystems. “We’ve extended our Azure Key Vault with Managed HSM service which runs inside a TEE,” says Bhatia. “The keys get securely released inside that TEE such that the data can be decrypted.”

Confidential computing use cases and benefits

GPU-accelerated confidential computing has far-reaching implications for AI in enterprise contexts. It also addresses privacy issues that apply to any analysis of sensitive data in the public cloud. This is of particular concern to organizations trying to gain insights from multiparty data while maintaining utmost privacy.

Another of the key advantages of Microsoft’s confidential computing offering is that it requires no code changes on the part of the customer, facilitating seamless adoption. “The confidential computing environment we’re building does not require customers to change a single line of code,” notes Bhatia. “They can redeploy from a non-confidential environment to a confidential environment. It’s as simple as choosing a particular VM size that supports confidential computing capabilities.”

Some industries and use cases that stand to benefit from confidential computing advancements include:

Governments and sovereign entities

Read More

————

By: MIT Technology Review Insights
Title: Unlocking secure, private AI with confidential computing
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/12/1094838/unlocking-secure-private-ai-with-confidential-computing/
Published Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2024 19:25:58 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-robot-packed-meals-and-the-looming-fertility-crisis/

Continue Reading

Tech

The Download: robot-packed meals, and the looming fertility crisis

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Robot-packed meals are coming to the frozen-food aisle

What’s happening: Advances in artificial intelligence are coming to your freezer, in the form of robot-assembled prepared meals. Chef Robotics, a San Francisco-based startup, has launched a system of AI-powered robotic arms that can be quickly programmed with a recipe to dole out accurate portions of everything from tikka masala to pesto tortellini.

Why it matters: You might think the meals that end up in the grocery store’s frozen aisle or on airplanes are robot-packed already, but that’s rarely the case. The vast majority of meals from recognizable brands are still typically hand-packed, because workers are often much more flexible than robots and can handle production lines that frequently rotate recipes. However, advancements from AI have changed the calculus, making robots more useful on production lines. Read the full story.

—James O’Donnell

IVF alone can’t save us from a looming fertility crisis

There are over 8 billion of us on the planet, and there’ll probably be 8.5 billion of us by 2030. We’re continually warned about the perils of overpopulation and the impact we humans are having on our planet. So it seems a bit counterintuitive to worry that, actually, we’re not reproducing enough.

But plenty of scientists are incredibly worried about just that. Improvements in health care and sanitation are helping us all lead longer lives. But we’re not having enough children to support us as we age. Fertility rates are falling in almost every country.

But wait! We have technologies to solve this problem! IVF is helping to bring more children into the world than ever, and it can help compensate for the fertility problems faced by older parents! Unfortunately, things aren’t quite so simple. Read the full story.

—Jessica Hamzelou

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on biotech and healthcare. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Here’s how Elon Musk plans to colonize Mars
Over the past year, he’s ramped up his ambitions to build a Martian city. (NYT $)
Musk has denied that he’s volunteered his sperm to help out, though. (CoinTelegraph)
Inside NASA’s bid to make spacecraft as small as possible. (MIT Technology Review)

2 Is Russia waging war under the sea? 
The disappearance of a subsea cable has raised some serious questions. (Bloomberg $)

3 Kamala Harris conspiracy theories are running rampant online
If Joe Biden drops out of the Presidential race, she’s most likely to replace him. (Wired $)
Three technology trends shaping 2024’s elections. (MIT Technology Review)

4 Apple is still struggling to find the Vision Pro’s killer app
Ahead of the device going on sale in Europe today. (FT $)
Apple will need to convince developers to build apps for its headset. (MIT Technology Review)

5 These scientists doubt that you’ll live to 100
They contend you’re more likely to reach somewhere between 65 and 90 instead. (WSJ $)
The quest to legitimize longevity medicine. (MIT Technology Review)

6 Google Cloud was briefly listed as a Israeli military tech conference sponsor
Before its logo was rapidly removed. (404 Media)

7 Those New York Link5G towers don’t have 5G after all
Regardless, another 2,000 towers are scheduled for installation. (NY Mag $)

8 How AI is overhauling ultrasound scans in Africa
Benefiting the women who are most in need. (The Guardian)

9 Northeast Indian YouTubers are challenging culinary stereotypes 
They’re lifting the veil on their unique food culture. (Rest of World)

10 There’s a better way to hold your phone
And you’re probably doing it wrong. (WP $)

Quote of the day

“I don’t have any idea if it’s working or not working. I just know this is what I feel like I should be doing.”

— Ruth Quint, the webmaster of the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh website, explains why she creates disinformation-bunking resources to the New York Times. 

The big story

One city’s fight to solve its sewage problem with sensors

AD 4nXeOM51W2aCQAD i c1nbjeR6ak 7fmhvx6efLulvDvSSDHXZ3 osMZ1IhVNmieBHyfHeZlcAMOJ AzHolsGW7HI3 giFObeieEcw b5IlvDTQe1h1 iolQ4lHbjA 0LYkMIJBASA8bIrY Ge9GZ42nWCTTg?key= ab8rDmppppPtD9 zog 1A

April 2021

In the city of South Bend, Indiana, wastewater from people’s kitchens, sinks, washing machines, and toilets flows through 35 neighborhood

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: robot-packed meals, and the looming fertility crisis
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/12/1094889/the-download-robot-packed-meals-and-the-looming-fertility-crisis/
Published Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2024 12:10:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Tech

The Download: automating warehouse tasks, and problems with recycling plastics

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

AI is poised to automate today’s most mundane manual warehouse task

Before almost any item reaches your door, it traverses the global supply chain on a pallet. More than 2 billion pallets are in circulation in the United States alone, and $400 billion worth of goods are exported on them annually.

However, loading boxes onto these pallets is a task stuck in the past: Heavy loads and repetitive movements leave workers at high risk of injury, and in the rare instances when robots are used, they take months to program using handheld computers that have changed little since the 1980s.

Jacobi Robotics, a startup spun out of the labs of the University of California, Berkeley, says it can vastly speed up that process with AI. If successful, Jacobi aims to replace the legacy methods customers are currently using to train their bots, whittling down the time it takes to code a paletting process from months to a single day. Read the full story.

—James O’Donnell

Here’s the problem with new plastic recycling methods

Look on the bottom of a plastic water bottle or takeout container, and you might find a logo there made up of three arrows forming a closed loop shaped like a triangle. Sometimes called the chasing arrows, this stamp is used on packaging to suggest it’s recyclable.

Those little arrows imply a nice story, painting a picture of a world where the material will be recycled into a new product, forming an endless loop of reuse. But the reality of plastics recycling today doesn’t match up to that idea. Only about 10% of the plastic ever made has been recycled; the vast majority winds up in landfills or in the environment.

Researchers have been working to address the problem by coming up with new recycling methods, sometimes called advanced, or chemical, recycling. But this new approach shares a few challenges with other recycling methods. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

This story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on energy and climate technology. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 Neuralink’s second brain implant is imminent
It hopes to have multiple devices implanted in human patients by the end of the year. (Bloomberg $)
Elon Musk confirmed that the company is working on a next-gen implant, too. (Wired $)
Meet the other companies developing brain-computer interfaces. (MIT Technology Review)

2 NASA’s astronauts were supposed to return to Earth weeks ago
But they’re stuck on the ISS until engineers are confident they’re safe to fly back. (Ars Technica)
Inside NASA’s bid to make spacecraft as small as possible. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Tesla’s cars’ ‘full self-driving’ capabilities are under investigation
It all hinges on whether the term implies the vehicles are autonomous. (WP $)
EV startup Rivian is snapping at Tesla’s heels. (Bloomberg $)
The Chinese government is going all-in on autonomous vehicles. (MIT Technology Review)

4 The US government is investing less in national security startups 
Compared to the vast amounts venture capitalists are pouring into the ventures. (WSJ $)

5 Apple has agreed to give its rivals access to its payments tech system
The move meets EU demands, and neatly swerves a hefty $40bn penalty. (FT $)
But Apple isn’t out of the woods quite yet. (Bloomberg $)

6 Starlink’s portable Mini dish has gone on sale
The internet-from-space kit is small enough to fit in a backpack. (The Verge)

7 Brace yourself for the rise of neurocosmetics
They’re products for your dermis and, err, your brain. (The Atlantic $)

8 Creators are turning hateful comments into content
It’s certainly one way of not letting the negativity get to you. (NYT $)

9 How Spotify turned itself into a social network
Its adoption of polls, Q&As, and comments suggests it has big ambitions. (TechCrunch)

10 It’s not just you—TikTok Shop really is annoying
Let me scroll in peace! (Vox)

Quote of the day

“No industry can thrive without regulation in the long run. It’s mayhem.”

—An AI startup founder tells the Financial Times that Biden and Trump’s lack of plans to govern the rapidly-evolving technology is sparking deep concern in Silicon Valley.

The big story

This grim but revolutionary DNA technology is changing how we respond to mass disasters

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: automating warehouse tasks, and problems with recycling plastics
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/07/11/1094856/the-download-automating-warehouse-tasks-and-problems-with-recycling-plastics/
Published Date: Thu, 11 Jul 2024 13:10:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Trending