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People with autism are hot hires for artificial intelligence jobs



Businesses scrambling for artificial-intelligence talent are tapping an unusual resource: people with autism.

Ernst & Young LLP, Credit Suisse Group AG , Dell Technologies Inc., Microsoft Corp. , DXC Technology Co. and other companies are hiring autistic applicants for AI jobs through neurodiversity programs they have established. EY, a professional services firm, is also advising a dozen Fortune 500 companies on starting similar programs.

Autistic workers are often hyper-focused, highly analytical thinkers with an exceptional proficiency for technology, said several company officials who have hired people on the spectrum. Many are capable of working long hours on repetitive AI tasks, such as labeling photos and videos for computer-vision systems, without losing interest. Others have a high capacity for logical reasoning and pattern recognition, enabling them to systematically develop and test AI models.

Demand is soaring for workers with skills in AI, data science and related areas. CompTIA, a tech trade group, said in June that the IT jobless rate fell to 1.3% in May, a 20-year low, intensifying competition for scarce talent.

Meanwhile, many autistic adults lack jobs. About 42% of autistic students who had special education in high school had no paid job in the first six years after leaving high school, according to a 2015 study by Drexel University researchers.

“Autistic individuals really are a solution for employers who are looking for highly skilled analytical individuals for certain jobs,” said Marcia Scheiner, founder and president of Integrate Autism Employment Advisors, a New York nonprofit that advises companies on setting up autism hiring programs. About 40 to 50 U.S. companies have such programs, Ms. Scheiner estimates.

Companies often find autistic workers through such groups. However, people with autism can be socially awkward and reclusive, meaning that companies need to make some adjustments, Ms. Scheiner said.

EY and DXC, an information-technology services firm, don’t conduct interviews with these hires because autistic people tend to do poorly in unscripted social situations. Instead, both companies have opted for performance assessments that can last several weeks. DXC compensates the job candidates for their time while EY doesn’t.

EY employs about 80 autistic people, more than double the number who worked there a year ago. Previous jobs for recent hires included working as a janitor, pizza deliverer and Uber driver. Their education levels range from high school diplomas to doctorates.

They work across the company’s five U.S. neurodiversity centers of excellence in Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Jose and one that opened this summer in Nashville, Tenn.

A 14-member team in Dallas, eight of whom are on the autism spectrum, last year developed an algorithm to automate the generation of EY consulting contracts—producing 2,000 contracts a month and saving the firm about 500,000 work hours a year, said Hiren Shukla, the firm’s neurodiversity innovation leader.

The team also built neural networks to quickly identify potential tax deductions for a client, Mr. Shukla said; the AI system took a mere 12 minutes to process five years of memos, emails and other paperwork.

Ian Nancarrow, a 31-year-old who has Asperger syndrome, a type of autism, joined EY’s Chicago office in January. He has an associate degree in interactive media and previously lived with his parents in Michigan, simultaneously working three jobs: package delivery, fast food and remote beta-testing of electronic products.

Today, he is an EY account support associate, knows six programming languages, and writes code for algorithms that monitor regulatory compliance for the firm.

“I have the ability to learn really well,” Mr. Nancarrow said in a phone interview. “I can basically analyse and iterate what I’ve learned so I can reference it and recall it, from front to back.”

Hiring staff with autism, said Mr. Shukla, “is a business imperative for EY. We don’t look at it as charity or corporate social responsibility.”

Credit Suisse began a neurodiversity hiring program at its Research Triangle Park facility in North Carolina nine months ago. It has two autistic employees, is about to hire a third, and has seven going through a 12-week apprenticeship program, said Rosemary Lissenden, an IT director at the bank. The two hires are developing machine-learning algorithms to improve client service for Credit Suisse’s investment banking business.

“They work intensely,” Ms. Lissenden said. “They spend long hours in intense concentration. Their brains like that sort of work and they don’t get tired.”

One of the workers, Kenneth Clark Johnson, is a robotics engineer in global markets technology process automation and quality control. Mr. Johnson said one aspect of his job is applying machine-learning models to extract and classify data from unstructured emails and attachments to populate a database that is used by traders. Mr. Johnson, who responded to questions by email, said that he brings “a new perspective to my team” and that he works with “exceptional speed and efficiency.”

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What does Facebook’s plan to hire scribes mean for media industry?



Facebook’s plan to hire professional journalists instead of relying solely on algorithms to deliver news is a positive step but is unlikely to shake up an embattled media industry, analysts say.

The social media giant said Tuesday it would build a small team of journalists to select the top national news of the day “to ensure we’re highlighting the right stories.”

It comes as the US media landscape is plagued by job losses and newspaper closures, with organizations trying to figure out how to record profits in the age of free news.

Stories will appear in a section called the “news tab,” which will be separate from the traditional news feed that displays updates and content from users’ friends and relatives.

“In theory I see this as a really positive development. It is something quite promising,” Danna Young, a communications professor at the University of Delaware, told AFP.

Facebook’s journalists will be curating stories from news sites and won’t be editing headlines or writing content.

The California-based company has consistently said it does not want to be considered a media organization that makes major editorial decisions, and this announcement does little to change that, experts add.

“It’s not transformative because it’s not going to change necessarily the behavior of individuals who are referencing stories on their feeds,” said Young.

“That’s where the power comes from — individuals you know and trust putting their tacit stamp of approval on stories by sharing them,” she added.

The tab will be the site’s first news feature using human moderators since it shut down its ill-fated “trending topics” section last year after a scandal over allegations workers had suppressed stories about conservative issues.

Articles not deemed top news stories will still be collated using algorithms based on the user’s history, such as pages they follow, publications they subscribe to and news they have already interacted with.

“Our goal with the news tab is to provide a personalized, highly relevant experience for people,” Facebook head of news partnerships Campbell Brown told AFP in San Francisco Tuesday.

The news tab feature comes as Facebook embarks on a series of initiatives to boost journalism, with traditional media organizations accusing it of benefitting financially from their hard work.

Internet platforms are dominating the internet advertising space making it difficult for established news organizations to transition what were very profitable print advertisements online.

Facebook announced in January that it will invest USD 300 million over three years to support journalism, particularly local news organisations.

It has also funded fact-checking projects around the world, including one in partnership with AFP.

Facebook will reportedly pay some publishers to license news content for the tab but Mathew Ingram, who writes about digital media for the Columbia Journalism Review, doesn’t expect that to trickle down to hard-up organizations that need it the most.

“The companies they are going to choose are ones already doing well I assume. It might give them a little extra cash but I don’t see it driving a huge amount of traffic,” he told AFP.

Print journalism in the US is in free-fall as social media overtakes newspapers as the main news source for Americans.

Around 2,000 American newspapers closed in the past 15 years, according to the University of North Carolina, leaving millions of residents without reporters keeping track of what their local authorities are up to.

“The death of local news has such destructive effects for democracy. It’s a complex issue that Facebook alone cannot fix,” said Young.

The number of journalists working at US newspapers slumped by 47 per cent from 2008 to 2018, according to a Pew Research Center survey released last year.

The total number of journalists in newsrooms fell by 25 per cent, the group found, while consultancy firm Challenger Gray & Christmas says this is going to be the worst year for layoffs since 2009.

It’s a difficult time for Stephen Groves, who recently earned a master’s in journalism at New York University, to be looking for work. When he heard about Facebook’s plans, he was skeptical.

“Facebook is not a journalism company and so before working for Facebook I would want to see their commitment to ethical, robust journalism,” the 30-year-old told AFP.

The digital sector is also in trouble.

When Buzzfeed cut 200 jobs in January, 29-year-old Emily Tamkin was let go from a position she had held for just a few months.

“I’m personally not cheered by the fact that Facebook is swooping in and hiring journalists. If that’s the silver lining then we have a very big cloud here,” she told AFP.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Google ditches its desserts! Android Q’s official name is Android 10



Breaking the 10-year history of naming Android releases after desserts, Google on Thursday announced it had officially named the next version as just Android 10.

“First, we’re changing the way we name our releases. Our engineering team has always used internal code names for each version, based of tasty treats, or desserts, in alphabetical order,” said Sameer Samat, VP of Product Management, Android, in a statement.

The naming tradition has become a fun part of the release each year externally too, like Android Lollipop or Marshmallows.

“As a global operating system, it’s important that these names are clear and relatable for everyone in the world. So, this next release of Android will simply use the version number and be called Android 10,” Samat explained.

“While there were many tempting ‘Q’ desserts out there, we think that at version 10 and 2.5 billion active devices, it was time to make this change,” he added.

Now, this year is Android 10 and next year will be Android 11, and so on.

Google also changed the logo from green to black.

It’s a small change but Google found the green was hard to read, especially for people with visual impairments.

Google will officially start using the updated logo in the coming weeks with the final release of Android 10.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Bose adds Google Assistant, Apple AirPlay 2 to its smart speakers



Google on Thursday announced an automatic software update that would bring the Google Assistant to all existing Bose smart speakers and soundbars.

The Google Assistant joins Amazon Alexa for voice control of smart home devices, and instant access to millions of songs and podcasts, help, information, and more.

Bose smart speaker owners can now also use Apple AirPlay 2 for simple streaming from Apple devices.

In addition, there is a small Bose smart speaker on the way. The Bose Home Speaker 300 can be pre-ordered on starting Thursday and would available from August 29.

Weighing a mere two pounds and measuring just over six-inch, the Bose Home Speaker 300’s acoustic package delivers powerful bass along with 360-degree sound – unlike conventional smart speakers that deliver a narrow beam of audio, the company said in a statement.

It would be sold directly from Bose stores, wholesale trade partners and online through for Rs 26,900.


(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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