Wednesday, April 19, 2017

China, EU plan closer engagement; Facebook for brain-control of computers; One in four young Aussies is distressed

1 China, EU for closer engagement (San Francisco Chronicle) Top diplomats from China and the European Union have pledged closer cooperation, highlighting their common interests in peace and security and pushing a message of free trade and open engagement in contrast to fears that the US is turning inward under President Donald Trump.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini co-chaired the Seventh EU-China Strategic Dialogue with State Councilor Yang Jiechi, China's highest-ranking diplomat. Mogherini said China and the EU had "a big responsibility" during "times of uncertainty."

Mogherini met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who said that the international community was looking at how China and the EU would work together to tackle challenges including the world economic recovery, global conflicts and terrorism, and Britain's pending withdrawal from the EU.
Unlike Trump, who was elected promising to tear up trade deals, impose new tariffs and bring jobs back to America, Chinese President Xi Jinping has cast his country as a champion of free trade and stability, and spoken out against protectionism.

Beijing and Brussels have disagreements on trade, however, including complaints by European and other foreign companies that they are blocked from acquiring Chinese assets while China's companies are buying major global brands. They also say they are barred from or sharply restricted in telecoms, information technology, finance and other promising industries in violation of Beijing's free-trading pledges.

Beijing, meanwhile, wants the EU to grant it market economy status, which would make it harder for the EU to impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports that it deems to be unfairly cheap. Other points of dispute include China's increasingly restrictive environment for civil society and internet censorship.

2 Facebook for brain-control of computers (Dave Lee on BBC) Facebook says it is working on technology to allow us to control computers directly with our brains. It is developing “silent speech” software to allow people to type at a rate of 100 words per minute, it says.
The project, in its early stages, will require new technology to detect brainwaves without needing invasive surgery. "We are not talking about decoding your random thoughts,” assured Facebook's Regina Dugan.

"You have many thoughts, you choose to share some of them. We’re talking about decoding those words. A silent speech interface - one with all the speed and flexibility of voice." Ms Dugan is the company’s head of Building 8, the firm’s hardware research lab. The company said it intends to build both the hardware and software to achieve its goal, and has enlisted a team of more than 60 scientists and academics to work on the project.

On his Facebook page, Mark Zuckerberg added: "Our brains produce enough data to stream four HD movies every second.  "The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world - speech - can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem.

Other ideas detailed at the company’s developers conference in San Jose included work to allow people to “hear” through skin. The system, comparable to Braille, uses pressure points on the skin to relay information. “One day, not so far away, it may be possible for me to think in Mandarin, and you to feel it instantly in Spanish,” Ms Dugan said.

3 One in four young Aussies in distress (BBC) Almost a quarter of young Australians are living with "probable serious mental illness", according to a study. The number of people aged 15-19 in psychological distress is higher than five years ago, said the report.

It also showed girls and indigenous Australians are more likely to suffer serious mental illness. The report recommended more investment in evidence-based online support tools and improving mental health education.

Key areas of concern for young people include coping with stress, school and study problems, and depression, according to the Mission Australia and Black Dog Institute findings. Black Dog Institute director Helen Christensen said: "These findings confirm that mental illness is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st Century, and one that has to be tackled by the community, health services and families."

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