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Moral machines

Oops! Now other countries have drones.
November 29, 2012


Google’s driver-less cars are already street-legal in three states, California, Florida, and Nevada, and some day similar devices may not just be possible but mandatory.

Eventually (though not yet) automated vehicles will be able to drive better, and more safely than you can; no drinking, no distraction, better reflexes, and better awareness (via networking) of other vehicles.

Within two or three decades the difference between automated driving and… read more

Break gridlock on global challenges or risk an unstable future, says report

October 28, 2013


The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations has launched a report, Now for the Long Term, on the successes and failures in addressing global challenges over recent decades.

Published by the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, the report calls for a radical shake-up in politics and business to deliver progress on climate change, reduce economic inequality, improve corporate practices, and address the chronic… read more

Georgia Tech professor proposes another alternative to the Turing test

The Lovelace 2.0 Test of Artificial Creativity and Intelligence assesses a computer's capacity for human-level intelligence by its ability to create, rather than to converse or deceive
November 20, 2014

But would mathematician-programmer Countess Lady Lovelace have approved?

Georgia Tech associate professor Mark Ried has developed a new kind of “Turing test” — a test proposed in 1950 by computing pioneer Alan Turing to determine whether a machine or computer program exhibits human-level intelligence.Most Turing test designs require a machine to engage in dialogue and convince (trick) a human judge that it is an actual person. But creating certain types of art also requires intelligence, leading Reid to consider… read more

Plant bacteria breakthrough enables crops worldwide to take nitrogen from the air

"N-Fix" can replace expensive and environmentally damaging nitrate fertilizers
August 1, 2013

Professor Ted Cocking from University of Nottingham with a plant grown using nitrogen fixation N Fix technology

The University of Nottingham scientists have developed a new technology that would enable all of the world’s crops to take nitrogen from the air, instead of requiring expensive and environmentally damaging fertilizers.

Nitrogen fixation, the process by which nitrogen is converted to ammonia, is vital for plants to survive and grow. However, only a very small number of plants, most notably legumes (such as peas,… read more

How to save money by making stuff with 3D printers

July 31, 2013

RepRap print

A Michigan Technological University researcher is predicting that personal manufacturing, like personal computing before it, is about to enter the consumer mainstream in a big way.

“For the average American consumer, 3D printing is ready for showtime,” said Associate Professor Joshua Pearce.

The reason is financial: the typical family can already save a great deal of money by making things with a 3D printer… read more

Spooky alignment of quasar axes across billions of light-years with large-scale structure

November 21, 2014

This artist's impression shows schematically the mysterious alignments between the spin axes of quasars and the large-scale structures that they inhabit that observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed. These alignments are over billions of light-years and are the largest known in the Universe. The large-scale structure is shown in blue and quasars are marked in white with the rotation axes of their black holes indicated with a line around them. This picture is for illustration only and does not depict the real distribution of galaxies and quasars. (Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser)

New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have revealed alignments over the largest structures ever discovered in the Universe. A European research team has found that the rotation axes of the central supermassive black holes in a sample of quasars are parallel to each other over distances of billions of light-years. The team has also found that the rotation axes of these quasars tend to… read more

Can robots be trusted to know right from wrong?

May 12, 2014

HAL 9000 (credit: Warner Bros.)

Is it possible to develop “moral” autonomous robots with a sense for right, wrong, and the consequences of both?

Researchers from Tufts University, Brown University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute think so, and are teaming with the U.S. Navy to explore technology that would pave the way to do exactly that.

“Moral competence can be roughly thought about as the ability to learn,… read more

Google’s self-driving car prototype: no steering wheel, brake, or accelerator

May 30, 2014

Google car

Google is exploring what fully self-driving vehicles would look like without a steering wheel, accelerator pedal, or brake pedal. “Our software and sensors do all the work,” says the company.

The early prototypes have sensors that remove blind spots, and can detect objects out to a distance of more than two football fields in all directions, which is especially helpful on busy streets with lotsread more

Are jobs obsolete?

September 8, 2011

We need a new productivity-based model to cope with human work replaced by technology (case in point: U.S. Post Office vs. email), says Douglas Rushkoff in a special to CNN. It’s not about jobs, he says, it’s about productivity. Technology lets us bypass corporations, make our own work — a new model.

“The question we have to begin to ask ourselves is not how do we employ… read more

The interspecies internet

Could the Internet connect us with dolphins, apes, elephants and other highly intelligent species?
March 2, 2013

(Credit: Peter Gabriel)

At TED 2013 Thursday, Diana Reiss, Peter Gabriel, Neil Gershenfeld, and Vint Cerf launched the idea of the “interspecies internet.”

Diana Reiss, a cognitive psychologist, has been been teaching dolphins to communicate through an underwater keyboard of symbols that correspond to whistles and playful activities.

Through this keyboard, the dolphins learned to perform activities on demand, and also to express their desire for them. (Also see… read more

Computers to grade tests and essays at college level: EdX

April 5, 2013



Imagine taking a college exam and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program. Then immediately redoing the test to try to improve your grade.

EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such software. It can grade student essays and short written answers, freeing… read more

Introducing a new feature of IBM’s Watson: The Debater

Can extract information from Wikipedia, "understand" it, and reason from that information, IBM claims
May 5, 2014

(Credit: IBM)

“Can a computer with access to large bodies of information like Wikipedia extract relevant information, digest and reason on that information and understand the context … and present it in natural language, with no human intervention?”

That’s how John Kelly III, Senior Vice President and Director, IBM Research, introduced a new feature of Watson called “The Debater” (starts at 45:25 in video below) at an April 30, 2014… read more

Coalition drops opposition to a Dow engineered crop

September 13, 2012


Save Our Crops Coalition, a group representing fruit and vegetable growers and canners, has dropped its opposition to regulatory approval of genetically engineered crops resistant to the powerful herbicide 2,4-D, The New York Times reports.

The group said Dow Agrosciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical, the crops’ developer, had agreed to take… read more

At last: a low-cost, professional-grade light-based 3D printer

September 27, 2012


Formlabs’ new Form 1 3D printer could bring professional-grade 3-D prints to the home workshop.

Desktop 3-D printing has largely been the domain of extrusion-based machines like MakerBot’s Replicator and homebrew RepRap designs.

These lag behind the capabilities of pricier, professional stereolithography devices, where UV light cures incredibly thin layers of resin to create objects on par with manufactured goods.

Developing this type of printer at a… read more

US State Dept. orders removal of 3D-printed gun designs

May 10, 2013


The U.S. State Department has demanded designs by Defense Distributed for a 3D-printed gun be taken offline because publishing them online may breach arms-control regulations, Forbes reports.

The order to remove the blueprints for the plastic gun comes after they were downloaded more than 100,000 times.

However, the files were actually being served by Mega, the New Zealand-based storage service created by ex-hacker entrepreneur Kim… read more

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