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The Download, Mar 6, 2017: Commercial Quantum Computing, Law’s AI Upgrade, and a Smart Condom

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

It’s Time to Commercialize Quantum Computing
Ready your trickiest problems and raid the money jar: quantum computing is going up for sale. IBM has announced that it’s launching the world’s first commercial quantum-computing service, which will allow people to make use of (currently slow) quantum hardware via the Internet. The news follows an article, published in Nature by Google’s Quantum AI Laboratory, which argued that the technology will become a commercial reality able to outperform traditional computers in the next five years. We agree: this year, quantum computing finally made our list of 10 breakthrough technologies.

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Upgrading the Law With AI
Judges and police officers can get great intelligence from artificial sources. Fast Company describes how Taser International, famous for its stun guns, is readying software that will live-stream video from its body cams to central police headquarters, where it will use AI to scan the footage for problems and alert officers of the findings. Meanwhile, our own Tom Simonite reports that machine learning can do a better job than judges at predicting whether a criminal defendant may pose a flight risk while awaiting trial.

Uber’s Fake App For Troublesome Riders
If you can never get a ride, you may've been greyballed. The New York Times reports that Uber uses a software tool called Greyball to serve up a fake version of the app to people that use its services inappropriately. The firm argues that it’s used to deny access to people who may cause problems, such as competitors or troublesome riders, but the newspaper argues that it has been used to sidestep authorities in cities where regulators try to clamp down on ride-hailing. At best, notch it up as another PR disaster on Uber's ever-expanding list.

Ten Fascinating Things 

Amazon’s $150 million typo brought parts of the Internet to a grinding halt last week. But the incident is really a lightning rod for a big cloud problem

The latest figures from the World Health Organization reveal that the deaths of more than 1.7 million children per year are attributable to unhealthy environments.

Facebook has finally rolled out its new Disputed News feature, which it hopes will slow the spread of false information.

Relatedly, here’s why Google’s “featured snippets” on search result pages may be even worse than fake news.

If artificial intelligence had been called “anthropic computing,” would it be viewed with less public skepticism? AI might have a PR problem.

When hacks hit public infrastructure or government servers, people rush to name the perpetrator. Ignoring the attack may sometimes be the best response.

Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, has been carrying out tests using blockchain to keep track of its cargoes

As technology and food collide to create animal-free meat and dairy without lactose, here’s a question: what should words like milk and sausage really mean?

Snap’s IPO has Silicon Valley excited about going public. The real test, though, will be what happens when its boring startups decide to hit Wall Street.

So, it’s come to this: say hello to the world’s first smart condom.

Quote of the Day 

"How land is managed in one state will affect what happens downstream. When we think about water management, we have to think about the entire watershed." 

— Durelle Scott from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg disagrees with Donald Trump as he  explains why water quality rules should be a federal concern.


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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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