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Communications of the ACM

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The opinion archive provides access to past opinion stories from Communications of the ACM and other sources by date.

April 2018


From ACM Opinion

Forging Voices and Faces: The Dangers of Audio and Video Fabrication

Forging Voices and Faces: The Dangers of Audio and Video Fabrication

In 1963, before he could give the speech he'd prepared for his trip to Dallas, U.S. president John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In March 2018, a company re-created the speech that Kennedy had intended to give, synthesized from…


From ACM Opinion

Alexa, How Do We Take Our Relationship to the Next Level?

Alexa, How Do We Take Our Relationship to the Next Level?

As useful as it would be to interact with smartphones and other gadgets by chatting casually with them, the technology to enable such a simple but meaningful back-and-forth has proved elusive.


From ACM Opinion

The Facebook Controversy: Privacy Is Not the Issue

The Facebook Controversy: Privacy Is Not the Issue

Cambridge Analytica's wholesale scraping of Facebook user data is familiar news by now, and we are all "shocked" that personal data are being shared and traded on a massive scale.


From ACM Opinion

Building AI Systems That Make Fair Decisions

Building AI Systems That Make Fair Decisions

Harini Suresh, a Ph.D. student at MIT CSAIL, studies how to make machine learning algorithms more understandable and less biased.


From ACM Opinion

Autonomous Weapons Would Take Warfare to a New Domain, Without Humans

Autonomous Weapons Would Take Warfare to a New Domain, Without Humans

Killer robots have been a staple of TV and movies for decades, from Westworld to The Terminator series. But in the real world, killer robots are officially known as "autonomous weapons."


From ACM Opinion

When John Doerr Brought a 'Gift' to Google's Founders

When John Doerr Brought a 'Gift' to Google's Founders

On a fall day in 1999, in the heart of Silicon Valley, I arrived at a two-story, L-shaped structure off the 101 freeway. It was young Google's headquarters, and I'd come with a gift.


From ACM Opinion

The Illusion of Time

 The Illusion of Time

According to theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn't correspond to physical reality.


From ACM Opinion

Who Has More of Your Personal Data Than Facebook? Try Google

Who Has More of Your Personal Data Than Facebook? Try Google

Recent controversy over Facebook Inc.'s hunger for personal data has surfaced the notion that the online advertising industry could be hazardous to our privacy and well-being.


From ACM Opinion

A Brand-New Version of Our Origin Story

A Brand-New Version of Our Origin Story

For over a decade, National Geographic's Genographic Project has been collecting saliva samples from willing participants, analyzing small pieces of their mother's and father's DNA (so-called mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome…


From ACM Opinion

'2001: A Space Odyssey': What It Means, and How It Was Made

'2001: A Space Odyssey': What It Means, and How It Was Made

Fifty years ago this spring, Stanley Kubrick's confounding sci-fi masterpiece, "2001: A Space Odyssey," had its premières across the country.


From ACM Opinion

Why Police Should Monitor Social Media to Prevent Crime

Why Police Should Monitor Social Media to Prevent Crime

In February, the ACLU of Massachusetts released a damning report detailing prejudice in social media surveillance efforts by the Boston Police Department (BPD).


From ACM Opinion

The 'Terms and Conditions' Reckoning Is Coming

The 'Terms and Conditions' Reckoning Is Coming

Eleanor Margolis had used PayPal for more than a decade when the online payment provider blocked her account in January. The reason: She was 16 years old when she signed up, and PayPal Holdings Inc. insists she should have known…


From ACM Opinion

If (Virtual) Reality Feels Almost Right, It's Exactly Wrong

If (Virtual) Reality Feels Almost Right, It's Exactly Wrong

We can all remember the crisply beveled edges of our cheery-yellow No. 2 pencil, the cool, smooth feel of a chalk-powdered blackboard, the gritty red bricks of the schoolhouse walls. Surely that all wasn't just an illusion?


From ACM Opinion

Why Silicon Valley Shouldn't Work With the Pentagon

Why Silicon Valley Shouldn't Work With the Pentagon

Is Silicon Valley going to war?


From ACM Opinion

Here's How Hackers Could Cause Chaos in This Year's US Midterm Elections

Here's How Hackers Could Cause Chaos in This Year's US Midterm Elections

On November 6, Americans will head to the polls to vote in the congressional midterm elections. In the months before the contest, hordes of foreign hackers will head to their keyboards in a bid to influence its outcome.


From ACM Opinion

What the History of Math Can Teach Us About the Future of AI

What the History of Math Can Teach Us About the Future of AI

Whenever an impressive new technology comes along, people rush to imagine the havoc it could wreak on society, and they overreact. Today we see this happening with artificial intelligence (AI).


From ACM Opinion

Regulate Artificial Intelligence to Avert Cyber Arms Race

Regulate Artificial Intelligence to Avert Cyber Arms Race

Cyberattacks are becoming more frequent, sophisticated and destructive. Each day in 2017, the United States suffered, on average, more than 4,000 ransomware attacks, which encrypt computer files until the owner pays to release…


From ACM Opinion

The White House Loses Its Cybersecurity Brain Trust

The White House Loses Its Cybersecurity Brain Trust

Today, the White House confirmed that cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce will head back to the National Security Agency, where he previously ran the nation's top hacking team.


From ACM Opinion

Can Europe Lead on Privacy?

Can Europe Lead on Privacy?

"We have a responsibility to protect your information," Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, declared recently in a full-page newspaper advertisement. "If we can't, we don't deserve it."


From ACM Opinion

A Revealer of Secrets in the Data of Life and the Universe

A Revealer of Secrets in the Data of Life and the Universe

In statistics, abstract math meets real life. To find meaning in unruly sets of raw numbers, statisticians like Donald Richards first look for associations: statistical links between, say, smoking and lung cancer, or the closing…


From ACM Opinion

We May Own Our Data, But Facebook Has a Duty to Protect It

We May Own Our Data, But Facebook Has a Duty to Protect It

Two years ago, Jack M. Balkin, a constitutional-law professor at Yale, published a fifty-page article in the U.C. Davis Law Review examining what he called problems "at the intersection of information privacy and the First Amendment…


From ACM Opinion

Amazon Robotics: An Interview With VP And Distinguished Engineer Brad Porter

Amazon Robotics: An Interview With VP And Distinguished Engineer Brad Porter

Brad Porter, Amazon's Vice President and Distinguished Engineer of Robotics, is responsible for driving improvements in the company's worldwide operations.


From ACM Opinion

Three Problems with Facebook's Plan to Kill Hate Speech Using AI

Three Problems with Facebook's Plan to Kill Hate Speech Using AI

Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress this week that Facebook will increasingly rely on artificial intelligence to catch hate speech spread on the platform.


From ACM Opinion

The Questions Zuckerberg Should Have Answered About Russia

The Questions Zuckerberg Should Have Answered About Russia

Over the last two days, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was questioned for more than 10 hours by two different Congressional committees. There was granular focus on privacy definitions and data collection, and quick footwork by …


From ACM Opinion

The Era of Fake Video Begins

The Era of Fake Video Begins

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in…


From ACM Opinion

The Internet Has Serious Health Problems, Mozilla Foundation Report Finds

The Internet Has Serious Health Problems, Mozilla Foundation Report Finds

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepared to face nearly half of the Senate today to explain what went wrong with his company's handling of personal data for millions of Facebook users, the Mozilla Foundation released a report…


From ACM Opinion

Bitcoin Would Be a Calamity, Not an Economy

Bitcoin Would Be a Calamity, Not an Economy

Earlier this year, Jack Dorsey, cofounder of Twitter and CEO of Square, declared that Bitcoin would become the world's "single currency" within a decade.


From ACM Careers

Tom Lehrer at 90: A Life of Scientific Satire

Tom Lehrer at 90: A Life of Scientific Satire

In 1959, the mathematician and satirist Tom Lehrer—who turns 90 this month—performed what he characteristically called a "completely pointless" scientific song at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (He was a PhD …


From ACM Opinion

New Brain Maps With Unmatched Detail May Change Neuroscience

New Brain Maps With Unmatched Detail May Change Neuroscience

Sitting at the desk in his lower campus office at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the neuroscientist Tony Zador turned his computer monitor toward me to show off a complicated matrix-style graph. Imagine something that looks like…


From ACM Opinion

Here's How the US Needs to Prepare for the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Here's How the US Needs to Prepare for the Age of Artificial Intelligence

Politicians worldwide are stealing one of the US government's best ideas by drawing up ambitious plans to make the most of advances in artificial intelligence.

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