Alcohol Is the Breast Cancer Risk No One Wants to Talk About

Martinez had never organized a social media campaign and doesn’t consider herself social media savvy. But after ARG won the $100,000 grant, she was running focus groups, coordinating an advisory group of cancer organizations, building a team of co-investigators and partnering with the ARG communications specialist. “The young women made it very clear they did not want to be told what to do,” Martinez says of the focus groups. “’Drink less for your breasts’ felt more like a helpful suggestion.”

Planning for the social media campaign began just as the pandemic forced a national shutdown. As the pandemic dragged on, alcohol consumption rose, especially among women. Days of heavy drinking among women, defined as four or more drinks within a couple of hours, rose by 41 percent, according to a survey by the RAND Corporation. (The study compared a baseline survey of 1,540 adults conducted in the spring of 2019 with their responses during a follow-up in the spring of 2020.)

But pushing back against alcohol consumption isn’t simple. As the US found during a disastrous prohibition period from 1920 to 1933, opposing alcohol is not popular. When Sharima Rasanayagam, chief scientist for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners in San Francisco, gives talks about environmental causes of breast cancer, her audience is rapt—until she mentions alcohol. “People like to drink and they don’t like to hear that,” she says. She tells them that quantity matters: “At the very least, drink less.”

It’s a message she delivers with care, to avoid giving women a reason for self-blame if they develop breast cancer and wonder “Why me?” Cases of breast cancer can’t be tied to alcohol alone, because many factors, including genetics and environmental exposures, contribute to the disease, she explains in a YouTube video linked to the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners website. But Rasanayagam notes that risks add up—and alcohol is one that women can reduce. Fewer drinks, whether over time or in one day, mean less exposure to acetaldehyde and potentially less effect on estrogen. “It’s been shown that the less you drink, the lower your risk,” she says. (Breast Cancer Prevention Partners is an advisor to the Drink Less for Your Breasts campaign.)

It’s a nuanced message but, in its own way, a bold one, as framed in a social media campaign, says David Jernigan, an alcohol policy expert at Boston University, who has been working in the field for 35 years. “What Priscilla is doing in California is groundbreaking,” he says.

Jernigan asserts that the harm from alcohol—which also includes drunk driving and an association with violence—warrants a large-scale response similar to anti-tobacco efforts. He notes that in Estonia, a campaign urging “Let’s drink less by half!” actually lowered per capita consumption by 28 percent. (Estonia’s alcohol policy also included restrictions on advertising, more enforcement of driving-under-the-influence laws, higher taxes, and a focus on treatment.)

The World Health Organization is also developing a global action plan; the current draft sets a goal of reducing per capita consumption by 20 percent by 2030 (with 2010 consumption levels as the baseline). It urges nations to develop and enforce “high-impact policy options,” such as higher alcohol taxes, restrictions on advertising, and emphasizes awareness of health risks.

Jernigan calls that effort a good step that doesn’t go far enough. He favors the development of an international treaty on alcohol, similar to the “Framework Convention on Tobacco Control,” the first such negotiated through the World Health Organization. It has been signed by 168 countries that committed to taking steps to restrict tobacco advertising, raise cigarette taxes, and prevent youth smoking.

via Wired Top Stories

October 5, 2021 at 06:09AM

Amazon’s Astro robot is stupid. You’ll still fall in love with it.

On September 28, Amazon introduced Astro, a “household robot.” Amazon’s launch video promises that the $999 robot, which is squat with two wheels and a rectangular screen that features two orbs for eyes, will be able to do things like watch your home or join impromptu dance parties.

This being Amazon, there’s good reason to be skeptical, especially since Astro is essentially a giant camera on wheels that will watch everything you do. So why would anyone be happy to have one in the house? The reason lies in the way our brains are wired. Years of robotics research and previous iterations of robotic assistants and pets (or “robopets”) have shown that people can’t help falling in love with them. 

Owners can become fiercely attached to their robopets. In a 2019 review of studies, scientists found that much like real pets, robopets—which included Paro (robotic seal), Justocat (robotic cat), Aibo (robotic dog), and Cuddler (robotic bear)—reduced depression and improved well-being for senior citizens. They happily caressed the robopets despite being fully aware that they weren’t actual animals. As one woman put it: “I know it is an inanimate object, but I can’t help but love her.”

And it’s not just robopets. Studies and anecdotes have shown that the Roomba—the self-propelled, disc-shaped vacuum cleaner—is often considered “part of the family,” and may even be assigned a gender and name. When the plug was pulled on the servers that powered Jibo, one of the first “social robots,” people mourned. Sony’s robot dog Aibo was completely useless, yet people held funerals for them when they finally broke down after Sony had discontinued the line.

Why do we do this? It all starts with trust, says UCLA’s Mark Edmonds. He has studied why humans trust robots, and he says that by default, we tend to trust machines to do what they’ve been programmed to do. That means machines have to maintain trust rather than build it.  

Trust goes two ways here with Astro. On the surface level, there’s the trust that Astro will follow commands efficiently and well. The deeper trust issue facing Amazon is the company’s volatile history in terms of surveillance and privacy, especially because Astro is primarily used for home surveillance. But Edmonds says some users may be willing to be less critical of that second, creepier trust issue if Astro just does what it’s told. “Astro has to get the functionality right first, before intimacy,” Edmonds says. “Functionality is the harder technical dimension.”

Getting humans to trust Astro may seem difficult, but Amazon has built in some key design elements to help them along, beginning with its “eyes.” It’s hard to call Astro cute—its “face” is really just a screen with two circles on it—but the circles recall the magnified eyes and dimensions of a child or baby animal. 

Robopets have long been designed with giant eyes and pouty features to make them instantly adorable to the human brain. In the early 2000s, MIT researcher Sherry Turkle began studying children who interacted with Furbies. She found that while the kids knew they were just toys, they still developed deep attachments to them, thanks in large part to their physical appearance. 

In a 2020 follow-up, Turkle writes that the therapeutic robot Paro’s eyes make people feel understood and “inspire [a] relationship… not based on its intelligence or consciousness, but on the capacity to push certain ‘Darwinian’ buttons in people (making eye contact, for example) that cause people to respond as though they were in relationship.”

Kids might be especially prone to feeling like Astro has the capacity to have a relationship with them. Judith Danovitch, an assistant professor at the University of Louisville who studies how kids interact with Alexa, says that Astro’s height, eyes, and cutesy look are definite “cues of personhood,” which might both fascinate and baffle children, particularly younger ones who are trying to figure out how to interact with other people.

“Being self-propelled is a cue for animacy for babies,” Danovitch says. “In the natural world, humans and animals are self-propelled. Rocks and other inanimate objects aren’t. It will be a challenge for young kids to understand them.”

Astro might have a secret weapon in making us fall for it: it’s really not that advanced yet. Vice got a hold of leaked documents that suggest the robot is not quite as slick as the launch video suggests (Amazon disputes this). At the moment, it can patrol the home with its built-in camera, play music, or let you make video calls. It can recognize what room it’s in and tell inhabitants apart using facial recognition.

That’s pretty much it, for now. But that isn’t necessarily negative. Astro’s relatively limited set of functions could be key to helping it integrate into our families. Research has shown that people easily lose trust in robots that struggle to carry out their basic functions. “Trust is broken when machines are irrational or do the thing we don’t expect them to,” says Edmonds. The fact Astro can’t actually do much might limit its chances to mess up (and creep us out). 

“Ease of use is often a bigger predictor of home robot acceptance than explicit utility,” says Heather Knight, an assistant professor of computer science at Oregon State University whose research focuses on human-robot interaction. What makes voice assistants like Alexa so powerful is that to use them, you just plug them in and yell out their name and a command.

Amazon certainly sees Astro as a future member of the family. “We think Astro will be great for families; as we said in our blog post introducing Astro, ‘In testing, we’ve been humbled by the number of people who said Astro’s personality made it feel like a part of their family, and that they would miss the device in their home after it was gone,’” Kristy Schmidt, a spokesperson with Amazon, said in an email. And getting kids to like Astro is folded into the design: Schmidt said that Amazon Kids, the Alexa service that lets children interact and play games on the firm’s smart speakers, is usable with Astro.

As robots become more ingrained in our lives, that kind of blurring between business and personal could create a tricky conflict of interest. When you develop a relationship with your robot, what are the ethics of it trying to sell you something from its manufacturer?

This could be especially problematic for children, who don’t have the capacity to understand advertising might pitch a product or service that doesn’t look exactly like what they see on TV or other media. “My guess is that when Amazon tries to share something and give a persuasive message [Astro], they’ll be confused,” Danovitch says. That could lead to an onslaught of ethical problems.

And yet, despite all this, it’s likely that we’ll welcome some future version of Astro into our homes and fall for it—because we are humans, and that’s what we do.

via Technology Review Feed – Tech Review Top Stories

October 4, 2021 at 05:06AM

Disney+ Will Rule Us All

If you’ve had a cable subscription at any point in the last 80 years or so, you likely know that when people talk about about the “Big Three” networks, they’re referring to ABC, CBS, and NBC—the three major commercial broadcast television networks that dominated programming in the U.S. for decades. Now, according to…

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via Gizmodo

October 1, 2021 at 03:48PM

How to Get Windows 11 Features Without Upgrading

That is a centered taskbar, and you don’t need Windows 11 to get it.
Photo: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

There are plenty of reasons why you might wait to upgrade to Windows 11. In many cases, your machine might not be ready for the update, but upgrading to a new operating system can be a significant disruption to your daily life. The last thing some of us can take right now is the loss of routine.

You don’t need to rush to install Windows 11 to get access to some of its marquee features. While you won’t get the whole vibe of Windows 11’s softer, rounded aesthetic without a complete upgrade, you can download a few apps or fiddle around with the current Windows 10 settings to get access to things like Android apps on Windows and a centered taskbar. Even if you decide to upgrade eventually, you might find these apps and abilities offer a better Windows experience than what’s to come.

Center the Taskbar

You can center the Taskbar on Windows 10 with the help of an app called StartIsBack.
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

Windows 11 will ship with app icons centered in the taskbar. This is a big deal because Windows has traditionally always defaulted to placing icons on the left-hand side. But since Chrome OS and macOS have already adopted the practice of centering the icons in their respective application docks, there are plenty of apps floating around that let you do the same on Windows 10.

The app I use is called StartIsBack, which comes with a ton of features. The app is primarily for compacting the Start menu, but there is also an option to center the icons in your taskbar. StartIsBack comes with a free trial, and then it’s $5 for the full license, which isn’t too much to pay for a little more customization than what Windows 10 currently offers.

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For those wanting to go the free route, there’s an app called CenterTaskbar that moves your apps to the middle. I’ve never used this app, though Wired suggests it as an option if all you want is that one ability from Windows 11.

Snap Layouts—In Half

Snap Layouts are way more sophisticated in Windows 11 than their predecessor, allowing you to easily partition each part of the screen as you need into thirds and even fifths. Windows 11 lets you place windows in all corners of the “snap zones,” and the hover controls offer more options for placement. You can even set up Snap groups so that the same apps launch together each time.

Technically, there are already Snap windows available on Windows 10, though they’re limited to each half of the screen. You can find the option under Snap settings in your system settings. The feature allows you to drag a window to the edge, and it will automatically size itself to fill the space. It’s helpful as you’re working between different applications and need all the information visible on the desktop.

If you want the dynamic snapping ability, you can also check out an app called Aquasnap, which is free for personal use and lets you set up more than two windows at a time.

Use Android Apps Now

This is how Bluestacks emulates this very particular Android app, called Memobird, within Windows 10.
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I’ll admit that I didn’t quite understand the fanfare of Windows 11 getting Android apps, considering I’ve been using them on Windows 10 for a while now. I use an app called Bluestacks, which is mainly aimed at Android gaming using a Windows machine. I use it for more straightforward tasks, like posting screenshots and text snippets to Instagram without picking up my phone. I also use it to access my thermal printer since I prefer the Android app over the Windows one. I like having the choice to move between platforms without having to switch devices.

Bluestacks is free and easy to install. Rather than having to hunt and fetch individual APK files, you can log in with your Google account and start downloading apps linked to your account directly from the Play Store as if you were on a regular Android device. The only caveat is that not all Android apps are compatible because Bluestacks emulates on the 4-year-old Android Nougat. But if you’re looking to get quick use out of a few particular Android apps, this is the fastest way to get going on Windows.

Get Yourself Simple Widgets

Widgets are having a moment, even though they haven’t evolved all that much in the last decade. Windows 11’s widgets aren’t particularly revolutionary, so you shouldn’t feel like you have to rush out and upgrade to get them. And anyway, there are other apps available for getting similar information pinned to the desktop.

Widget Launcher lets you launch widgets atop Windows 10. That’s it.
Screenshot: Florence Ion / Gizmodo

I use an app called Widget Launcher. It’s a free widget-maker that lets you theme the widgets to match the rest of how you’ve styled your interface. Widget Launcher includes all the basic widgets, from world clocks to calendars. There’s even a calculator widget for quick math and an RSS feed widget for keeping your pulse on the headlines. My favorite widget is the CPU monitor because I like to see how much memory my browser eats up in real-time.

There are other more robust widget makers available. Rainmeter is a popular, open-source desktop customization tool with a passionate community of artists and developers behind it. Or try Desktop Gadgets, which brings back similar-looking widgets from when Microsoft used to call them gadgets.

Windows 11 is officially available as a downloadable upgrade beginning Oct. 5. You might get yourself acquainted with what you’ll lose leaving Windows 10 in case you need a reason to convince yourself to wait.

via Gizmodo

October 5, 2021 at 07:06AM

How and when to upgrade to Windows 11

Windows 11 is here and Microsoft has detailed how the phased rollout will work. The first systems to get the operating system are new devices on which it’s pre-loaded. Starting on October 5th, Microsoft will initially offer the free upgrade to new PCs, laptops and tablets that ship with Windows 10.

Next, Microsoft says it will look at hardware eligibility, reliability metrics and other factors on existing Windows 10 devices to determine when to offer the latest OS through Windows Update. It’s a similar approach to how the company has handled Windows 10 feature updates over the years. You can find out whether your device is compatible using the PC Health Check app.

Microsoft will let you know when Windows 11 is ready for your system via the Windows Update Settings page or when you check for updates. You might be in for a wait, though. The company expects to offer the upgrade to all eligible Windows 10 devices by mid-2022.

Windows 11

Windows Update is Microsoft’s suggested Windows 11 upgrade method, and likely the easiest one for most people. However, you can install the OS manually if you prefer. You can download the Installation Assistant or use an ISO install.

Microsoft doesn’t recommend installing Windows 11 on devices that don’t meet the system requirements, but you’ll still be able to do so. It’s worth noting that you might not get Windows 11 updates on PCs with unsupported processors.

However you decide to make the switch to Windows 11, it’s probably best to back up all of your files first. The OS is likely stable at this point, but it’s not worth taking the risk that something will go awry and cause you to lose important data. 

Meanwhile, Microsoft says today marks the start of the 24-month lifecycle for Windows 11 Home and Pro editions, as well as the beginning of 36 months of servicing support for the Enterprise and Education versions.

via Engadget

October 4, 2021 at 03:06PM