Tag Archives: tech

#440047 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

Can Digital Reality Be Jacked Directly Into Your Brain?
Adam Rogers | Wired
“The idea of uploading a synthetic experience into a mind has been a load-bearing member in science fiction for at least 75 years… But in real life (that’s what this is, right?), we’re a long way from a data port in the nape of every neck. Neuroscientists can decode the signal coming out of the brain well enough to move a cursor or a robotic arm, though they can’t achieve the fluid elegance of a biological connection. Signal going in is even trickier.”

Someone Just Bought a Strip of Virtual ‘Land’ for Over $2.4 Million
Shoshana Wodinksy | Gizmodo
“For that mega-investment, the firm got 116 virtual land ‘parcels,’ which adds up to about 6,090 square feet of land—a little larger than the size of your average basketball court. For reference, while prices for IRL plots of land vary wildly by state, some estimates put the average price per square foot in the US at around $123, meaning that the real-world equivalent of this purchase would have cost about $750,000, instead of…$2.4 million.”

Could One Shot Kill the Flu?
Matthew Hutson | The New Yorker
“Until recently, it’s been beyond the reach of molecular biology. But new technologies are extending our abilities, and researchers are learning how to see through the flu’s disguises. Without knowing it, we’re living on the cusp of a remarkable scientific achievement. One of the world’s longest pandemics could soon be coming to an end.”

Supercomputers Flex Their AI Muscles
Samuel K. Moore | IEEE Spectrum
“MLCommons, the industry organization that’s been setting realistic tests for AI systems of all sizes…released results from version 1.0 of its high-performance computing benchmarks, called MLPerf HPC, this week. …Compared to MLPerf HPC version 0.7, basically a warmup round from last year, the best results in version 1.0 showed a 4- to 7-fold improvement.”

Japanese Firms Will Test a Bank-Backed Cryptocurrency in 2022
I. Bonafacic | Engadget
“Japan is about to take a significant step toward developing a digital currency. Per Reuters, a consortium made up of approximately 70 Japanese firms said this week they plan to launch a yen-based cryptocurrency in 2022. What’s notable about the project, tentatively called ‘DCJPY,’ is that three of the country’s largest banks will back it.”

The UK Government Wants to Sequence Your Baby’s Genome
Grace Browne | Wired
“In October, the government announced that Genomics England, a government-owned company, would receive funding to run a research pilot in the UK that aims to sequence the genomes of between 100,000 and 200,000 babies. Dubbed the Newborn Genomes Programme, the plan will be embedded within the UK’s National Health Service and will specifically look for ‘actionable’ genetic conditions—meaning those for which there are existing treatments or interventions—and which manifest in early life…”

The Gene-Synthesis Revolution
Yiren Lu | The New York Times
“If the first phase of the genomics revolution focused on reading genes through gene sequencing, the second phase is about writing genes. Crispr, the gene-editing technology whose inventors won a Nobel Prize last year, has received far more attention, but the rise of gene synthesis promises to be an equally powerful development. Crispr is like editing an article, allowing us to make precise changes to the text at specific spots; gene synthesis is like writing the article from scratch.”

Robots Won’t Close the Warehouse Worker Gap Anytime Soon
Will Knight | Wired
“A rush to adopt more automation does not mean that artificial intelligence and robots will solve the worker shortage. Amazon’s prototype robots are not yet capable of doing the most challenging, and important, work inside its fulfillment centers: picking the many products stored on its shelves. They’re simply not smart enough.”

The Hyperloop Is Hyper Old
Vaclav Smil | IEEE Spectrum
“The artist, William Heath (1794–1840), shows many futuristic contraptions, including a four-wheeled steam-powered horse called Velocity, a suspension bridge from Cape Town to Bengal, a gun-carrying platform lifted by four balloons, and a giant winged flying fish conveying convicts from England to New South Wales, in Australia. But the main object is a massive, seamless metallic tube taking travelers from East London’s Greenwich Hill to Bengal, courtesy of the Grand Vacuum Tube Company.”

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#439893 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

Are We on the Verge of Chatting With Whales?
Christoph Droesser | Hakai Magazine
“An ambitious project is attempting to interpret sperm whale clicks with artificial intelligence, then talk back to them. …If Bronstein’s idea works, it is quite realistic to develop a system analogous to human language models that generates grammatically correct whale utterances. The next step would be an interactive chatbot that tries to engage in a dialogue with free-living whales.”

Brain Implants Could Be the Next Computer Mouse
Antonio Regalado | MIT Technology Review
“While other brain-interface researchers grabbed the limelight with more spectacular demonstrations, Shenoy’s group has stayed focused on creating a practical interface that paralyzed patients can use for everyday computer interactions. …’if you can click, then you can use Gmail, surf the Web, and play music.’ Shenoy says he is developing the technology for people with ‘the worst afflictions and the most need.’i”

Boston Dynamics Wants You to Know Its Spot Robot Has Moves Like Jagger
I. Bonifacic | Engadget
“Is this what TikTok will look like when the robots take over? …In a new solo display, we get to see [Spot] move to ‘Start Me Up’ from The Rolling Stones in honor of the 40th anniversary of their 1981 album Tattoo You. And if you thought Spot dancing was too close to the uncanny valley, wait until you see it lip-sync.”

This Chemist Is Reimagining the Discovery of Materials Using AI and Automation
Simon Lewson | MIT Technology Review
“i‘In the Matter Lab, we only attack a problem after asking three questions,’ says [Alán] Aspuru-Guzik. ‘Does it matter for the world? If not, then fuck it. Has somebody else already done it? If the answer is yes, there’s no point. And is it remotely possible?’ Here, the word ‘remotely’ is key. Aspuru-Guzik wants to tackle challenges that are within the range of feasibility, but barely so. ‘If a material is too easy,’ he says, ‘let other people find it.’i”

A Once-Quiet Battle to Replace the Space Station Suddenly Is Red-Hot
Eric Berger | Ars Technica
“A Houston-based company called Axiom Space has been most public about its intentions, talking for a few years now about developing the world’s ‘first commercial space station.’ But this week, two other options emerged for NASA: Nanoracks and Lockheed Martin announced their intent to build a space station called ‘Starlab,’ and another team led by Blue Origin and Sierra Space revealed plans to construct an ‘Orbital Reef.’i”

‘Yeah, We’re Spooked’: AI Starting to Have Big Real-World Impact, Says Expert
Nicola Davis | The Guardian
“i‘The AI community has not yet adjusted to the fact that we are now starting to have a really big impact in the real world,’ [Stuart Russell] told the Guardian. ‘That simply wasn’t the case for most of the history of the field—we were just in the lab, developing things, trying to get stuff to work, mostly failing to get stuff to work. So the question of real-world impact was just not germane at all. And we have to grow up very quickly to catch up.’i”

Alphabet Designed a Low-Cost Device to Make Drinking Water From Air. Now It’s Open-Sourced
Adele Peters | Fast Company
“Because larger water infrastructure projects, like desalination plants, take many years to plan and build, the small devices could help fill the gap in the meantime. ‘This can leapfrog a lot of that and go directly to the source with a small device that’s solar powered,’ says Jackson Lord, lead author of the paper, who previously worked at X on the project.”

Making This Album With AI ‘Felt Like Wandering in and Enormous Labyrinth’
James Vincent | The Verge
“The end result of this three-way trade [between humans and AI] is Shadow Planet, an atmospheric album in which snippets of folk songs and electronic hooks emerge like moss-covered logs from a fuzzy bog of ambient loops and disintegrating samples. It is a complete album in and of itself: a pocket musical universe to explore.”

Eight Things We Learned From the Facebook Papers
Russell Brandom, Alex Heath, and Adi Robertson | The Verge
“For months, Facebook has been shaken by a steady leak of documents from whistleblower Frances Haugen, beginning in The Wall Street Journal but spreading to government officials and nearly any outlet with an interest in the company. Now, those documents are going much more public, giving us the most sweeping look at the operations of Facebook anyone not directly involved with the company has ever had.”

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#439853 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

Facebook Is Researching AI Systems That See, Hear, and Remember Everything You Do
James Vincent | The Verge
“[Facebook’s AI team] imagines AI systems that are constantly analyzing peoples’ lives using first-person video; recording what they see, do, and hear in order to help them with everyday tasks. Facebook’s researchers have outlined a series of skills it wants these systems to develop, including ‘episodic memory’ (answering questions like ‘where did I leave my keys?’) and ‘audio-visual diarization’ (remembering who said what when).”

Drone Delivers Lungs to Transplant Recipient, a Medical First
George Dvorsky | Gizmodo
“As the Canadian Press reports, some 80% of donated lungs cannot be used owing to problems having to do with insufficient oxygenation or a failure to meet minimal functional standards. And like any transplanted organ, time is of the essence; the quicker an organ can be brought to the patient, the better. Hence the desire to ship organs through the air, rather than through congested city traffic.”

At 90, William Shatner Becomes the Oldest Person to Reach ‘the Final Frontier’
Daniel E. Slotnick | The New York Times
“The actor spoke of how the experience of seeing the blue earth from space and the immense blackness of outer space had profoundly moved him, demonstrating what he called the ‘vulnerability of everything.’ The atmosphere keeping humanity alive is ‘thinner that your skin,’ he said.”

Fraudsters Cloned Company Director’s Voice in $35 Million Bank Heist, Police Find
Thomas Brewster | Forbes
“What [the bank manager] didn’t know was that he’d been duped as part of an elaborate swindle, one in which fraudsters had used ‘deep voice’ technology to clone the director’s speech, according to a court document unearthed by Forbes in which the U.A.E. has sought American investigators’ help in tracing $400,000 of stolen funds that went into US-based accounts held by Centennial Bank.”

This Is the True Scale of China’s Bitcoin Exodus
Gian M. Volpicelli | Wired UK
“The figures, gathered by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) found that by the end of August 2021, the percentage of bitcoin mining taking place in China had ‘effectively dropped to zero.’ That is a staggering reversal for a country that, as late as September 2019, was believed to be home to 75.53 percent of global bitcoin mining operations.”

90% of New Cars Sold in Norway Are Now Electric or Plug-in Hybrids
Adele Peters | Fast Company
“In 2012, electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up just 3% of new car sales in Norway. By 2019, that had jumped to 56%. Now, the country wants to get to 100% EV sales by 2025—and it might actually succeed. The Norwegian Automobile Federation recently reported that if past trends continue, it’s possible that the last fossil fuel-powered vehicle in Norway might be sold as soon as next year.”

Pentagon Wants AI to Predict Events Before They Occur
Natasha Bajema | IEEE Spectrum
“What if by leveraging today’s artificial intelligence to predict events several days in advance, countries like the United States could simply avoid warfare in the first place? It sounds like the ultimate form of deterrence, a strategy that would save everyone all sorts of trouble and it’s the type of visionary thinking that is driving U.S. military commanders and senior defense policymakers toward the rapid adoption of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled situational awareness platforms.”

AI Fake-Face Generators Can Be Rewound to Reveal the Real Faces They Trained On
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“In a paper titled This Person (Probably) Exists, researchers show that many faces produced by GANs bear a striking resemblance to actual people who appear in the training data. The fake faces can effectively unmask the real faces the GAN was trained on, making it possible to expose the identity of those individuals.”

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#439832 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

How the World’s Biggest Brain Maps Could Transform Neuroscience
Alison Abbott | Nature
“To truly understand how the brain works, neuroscientists also need to know how each of the roughly 1,000 types of cell thought to exist in the brain speak to each other in their different electrical dialects. With that kind of complete, finely contoured map, they could really begin to explain the networks that drive how we think and behave.”

A Gene-Editing Experiment Let These Patients With Vision Loss See Color Again
Rob Stein | NPR
“Carlene Knight’s vision was so bad that she couldn’t even maneuver around the call center where she works using her cane. …But that’s changed as a result of volunteering for a landmark medical experiment. …Knight is one of seven patients with a rare eye disease who volunteered to let doctors modify their DNA by injecting the revolutionary gene-editing tool CRISPR directly into cells that are still in their bodies.”

Light Field Lab Shows off Solidlight High-Res Holographic Display
Dean Takahashi | VentureBeat
“…the company [says] it is the highest-resolution holographic display ever designed. And yes, the little chameleon that I saw floating in the air looked a lot better than the pseudo-hologram of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movie. While it’s not hard to beat the vision of holograms in a movie from 1977, it has taken an extraordinarily long time to create real holograms that look good.”

Airless Tires Are Finally Coming in 2024: Here’s Why You’ll Want a Set
Brian Cooley | CNET
“Nails become minor annoyances and sidewall cuts that usually render a tire unrepairable are no longer possible. There would be no need to check tire inflation (you’ve probably ignored my admonitions to do that anyway) and we’d say goodbye to spare tires, jacks and inflation kits that most drivers view as mysterious objects anyway. Blowouts that cause thousands of crashes a year would be impossible.”

These 5 Recent Advances Are Changing Everything We Thought We Knew About Electronics
Ethan Siegel | Big Think
“As we race to miniaturize electronics, to monitor more and more aspects of our lives and our reality, to transmit greater amounts of data with smaller amounts of power, and to interconnect our devices to one another, we quickly run into the limits of these classical technologies. But five advances are all coming together in the early 21st century, and they’re already beginning to transform our modern world. Here’s how it’s all going down.”

The Facebook Whistleblower Says Its Algorithms Are Dangerous. Here’s Why.
Karen Hao | MIT Technology Review
“Frances Haugen’s testimony at the Senate hearing today raised serious questions about how Facebook’s algorithms work—and echoes many findings from our previous investigation. …We pulled together the most relevant parts of our investigation and other reporting to give more context to Haugen’s testimony.”

D-Wave Plans to Build a Gate-Model Quantum Computer
Frederic Lardinois | TechCrunch
“For more than 20 years, D-Wave has been synonymous with quantum annealing. …But as the company announced at its Qubits conference today, a superconducting gate-model quantum computer—of the kind IBM and others currently offer—is now also on its roadmap. D-Wave believes the combination of annealing, gate-model quantum computing and classic machines is what its businesses’ users will need to get the most value from this technology.”

The Decreasing Cost of Renewables Unlikely to Plateau Any Time Soon
Doug Johnson | Ars Technica
“Past projections of energy costs have consistently underestimated just how cheap renewable energy would be in the future, as well as the benefits of rolling them out quickly, according to a new [University of Oxford] report. …if solar, wind, and the myriad other green energy tools followed the deployment trends they are projected to see in the next decade, in 25 years the world could potentially see a net-zero energy system.”

The Turbulent Past and Uncertain Future of Artificial Intelligence
Eliza Strickland | IEEE Spectrum
“Today, even as AI is revolutionizing industries and threatening to upend the global labor market, many experts are wondering if today’s AI is reaching its limits. …Yet there’s little sense of doom among researchers. Yes, it’s possible that we’re in for yet another AI winter in the not-so-distant future. But this might just be the time when inspired engineers finally usher us into an eternal summer of the machine mind.”

Facebook and Google’s New Plan? Own the Internet
James Ball | Wired UK
“The name ‘cloud’ is a linguistic trick—a way of hiding who controls the underlying technology of the internet—and the huge power they wield. Stop to think about it for a moment and the whole notion is bizarre. The cloud is, in fact, a network of cables and servers that cover the world: once the preserve of obscure telecoms firms, it is now, increasingly, owned and controlled by Big Tech—with Google and Facebook claiming a lion’s share.”

The Moon Didn’t Die as Soon as We Thought
Tatyana Woodall | MIT Technology Review
“The moon may have been more volcanically active than we realized. Lunar samples that China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft brought to Earth are revealing new clues about volcanoes and lava plains on the moon’s surface. In a study published [Thursday] in Science, researchers describe the youngest lava samples ever collected on the moon.”

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#439798 This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From ...

How DeepMind Is Reinventing the Robot
Tom Chivers | IEEE Spectrum
“Having conquered Go and protein folding, the company turns to a really hard problem. …To get to the next level, researchers are trying to fuse AI and robotics to create an intelligence that can make decisions and control a physical body in the messy, unpredictable, and unforgiving real world.”

Microscopic Metavehicles Are Pushed and Steered by Light
Ben Coxworth | New Atlas
“Although solar-powered devices are now fairly common, Swedish scientists have created something a little different. They’ve built tiny ‘metavehicles’ that are mechanically propelled and guided via waves of light. …[It’s] hoped that the technology may someday be utilized in applications such as moving micro-particles through solutions inside of or adjacent to cells.”

How an 11-Foot-Tall 3D Printer Is Helping to Create a Community
Debra Kamin | The New York Times
“When New Story broke ground on the village in 2019, it was called the world’s first community of 3D printed homes. Two years and a pandemic later, 200 homes are either under construction or have been completed, 10 of which were printed on site by Icon’s Vulcan II printer. Plans for roads, a soccer field, a school, a market and a library are in the works.”

Why OpenAI’s Codex Won’t Replace Coders
Thomas Smith | IEEE Spectrum
“If you’re a software developer yourself—or your company has spent tons of money hiring them—you can breathe easy. Codex won’t replace human developers any time soon, though it may make them far more powerful, efficient, and focused.”

Humans Can’t Be the Sole Keepers of Scientific Knowledge
Iulia Georgescu | Wired
“It’s clear that we do not really know what we know, because nobody can read the entire literature even in their own narrow field (which includes, in addition to journal articles, PhD theses, lab notes, slides, white papers, technical notes, and reports). …To solve this problem we need to make science papers not only machine-readable but machine-understandable, by (re)writing them in a special type of programming language. In other words: Teach science to machines in the language they understand.”

Dune Foresaw—and Influenced—Half a Century of Global Conflict
Andy Greenberg | Source
“…reading Dune a half century later, when many of Herbert’s environmental and psychological ideas have either blended into the mainstream or gone out of style—and in the wake of the disastrous fall of the US-backed government in Afghanistan after a 20-year war—it’s hard not to be struck, instead, by the book’s focus on human conflict: an intricate, deeply detailed world of factions relentlessly vying for power and advantage by exploiting every tool available to them.”

Space Policy Is Finally Moving Into the 21st Century
Tatyana Woodall | MIT Technology Review
“This week, the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research held its annual Outer Space Security Conference in Geneva, Switzerland (participants had the option to attend virtually or in person). For two days, diplomats, researchers, and military officials from around the world met to discuss threats and challenges, arms control, and space security. Their conversations provided a window into what new space policies might look like.”

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