Category Archives: The Future

Are Killer Robots the Future of War?

It’s a freezing, snowy day on the border between Estonia and Russia. Soldiers from the two nations are on routine border patrol, each side accompanied by an autonomous weapon system, a tracked robot armed with a machine gun and an optical system that can identify threats, like people or vehicles. As the patrols converge on uneven ground, an Estonian soldier trips and accidentally discharges his assault rifle. The Russian robot records the gunshots and instantaneously determines the appropriate response to what it interprets as an attack. In less than a second, both the Estonian and Russian robots, commanded by algorithms, turn their weapons on the human targets and fire. When the shooting stops, a dozen dead or injured soldiers lie scattered around their companion machines, leaving both nations to sift through the wreckage — or blame the other side for the attack.

The hypothetical scenario seems fantastical, but those battlefield robots already exist today in an early form.


How Blockchain Could Save Musicians Millions…

In the bowels of a former nuclear research bunker, Imogen Heap sits at a piano. As she beings to sing, the small audience for this rare acoustic performance cheer her on.

But this crowd is not just simply enjoying the show. They stand to benefit from it too. A recording of one of the two-time Grammy winner’s songs at the concert in Stockholm, Sweden, is to be released for sale online. Embedded within its digital code will be a contract that ensures 150 ordinary audience members receive a portion of the royalties made from the sales.

Imagine the disruption.


REPORT: Are you ready for a chip implant?

A company called Biohax has already “installed” around 4,000 chips in customers, inserted just below the thumb. They can use the implant to open secure doors, pay for tickets, and share emergency information with medical personnel. The chip is about the size of a Tylenol pill, and the procedure — which costs $180 — is similar to getting a tetanus shot.


Millions of Californians’ jobs could be affected by automation

Looking at a map of California on a projector screen, Johannes Moenius, an economics professor at the University of Redlands, hovered his mouse over the Inland Empire, which glowed with a splotch of red pixels.

The colored dots signified how susceptible an area would be to job losses caused by automation. And the alarm-bell red that covered Riverside, San Bernardino and Ontario signaled high risk — roughly 63% of tasks performed by workers in the area could be automated in the future.

To Moenius, the rise of robots in warehouses, factories and fast-food restaurants presents danger for places like the Inland Empire, where most residents work in logistics and the service industry and just 21% of adults have a four-year degree. As technology transforms the nature of work in California, how do people most at risk find their way to new jobs?


Gettin scary…

Atlas does parkour. The control software uses the whole body including legs, arms and torso, to marshal the energy and strength for jumping over the log and leaping up the steps without breaking its pace. (Step height 40 cm.) Atlas uses computer vision to locate itself with respect to visible markers on the approach to hit the terrain accurately.


Why you have (probably) already bought your last car

I’m guessing you are scoffing in disbelief at the very suggestion of this article, but bear with me.

A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we’ll all have stopped owning cars, and, what’s more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history.

Yes, it’s a big claim and you are right to be sceptical, but the argument that a unique convergence of new technology is poised to revolutionise personal transportation is more persuasive than you might think.


In case you wondered, artificial intelligence is impossible

From computer engineer Eric Holloway at Mind Matters Today:

What is meaningful information, and how does it relate to the artificial intelligence question?

First, let’s start with Claude Shannon’s definition of information. Shannon (1916–2001), a mathematician and computer scientist, stated that an event’s information content is the negative logarithm* of its probability.

Claude Shannon/Conrad Jakobs

So, if I flip a coin, I generate 1 bit of information, according to his theory. The coin came down heads or tails. That’s all the information it provides.

However, Shannon’s definition of information does not capture our intuition of information. Suppose I paid money to learn a lot of information at a lecture and the lecturer spent the whole session flipping a coin and calling out the result. I’d consider the event uninformative and ask for my money back.

But what if the lecturer insisted that he has produced an extremely large amount of Shannon information for my money, and thus met the requirement of providing a lot of information? I would not be convinced. Would you?

A quantity that better matches our intuitive notion of information is mutual information.Mutual information measures how much event A reduces our uncertainty about event B. We can see mutual information in action if we picture a sign at a fork in the road. … More.

Reality check: The real story isn’t that the machines are intelligent but that intelligent people can use them to make you think you shouldn’t have the same social rights as they do.

See also: Google powering China’s snoop culture: They’ve suppressed the memo but can’t suppress the uproar around it. It may at first seem deeply ironic that a Silicon Valley ostensibly committed to liberal values would help to unleash this storm. But a political analyst carefully traces the growth in its enthusiasm for “smart government,” using the tools of information technology for social engineering.


Digital dictatorship? China’s “social credit” system coming under scrutiny. It is not clear that most Chinese people understand the implications yet but many in the industry do. As of September 16, over 1400 Google employees had signed a letter of protest against Google’s involvement in Chinese censorship.


How Far Can Driverless Cars Take Us?

The potential complications are enormous, but so might be the benefits.

Driverless cars and trucks—or autonomous vehicles (AV)—offer a tantalizing promise of safer and unclogged roadways. In 2017, 37,150 people died in accidents on America’s roads, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, up sharply from 32,479 in 2011, and far worse per capita than anywhere else in the Western world. And the United States has ten of the 25 most congested cities globally, according to the Inrix transportation intelligence group. Cars that drive themselves could reduce crashes to a small fraction of today’s totals, while moving people about more efficiently, in larger groups and at faster speeds.


Facial recognition systems will imprison us all

We all know the arguments against prison as a form of punishment. It’s inhumane. It’s expensive. It’s counter-productive.

The counter-argument – that ‘prison works’ – is based on at least one incontestable truth: when criminals are locked-up, they can’t do anything to harm the general public.

But what if offenders could be kept apart from the public – at least in the situations where they’re most likely to cause harm – without the need for, and disadvantages of, imprisonment?