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War on Botnets, Rebooting the Traffic Signal, and AI’s Dark Secret—The Download, April 11, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

A Dark Secret at the Heart of AI
Can you trust an intelligent entity that can’t explain its reasoning? Humans have never really built machines they don’t fully understand before, but the world’s most advanced algorithms now teach themselves and yet can't communicate how they do it. As these black box systems begin to drive cars, diagnose disease, and make financial decisions, that could become a huge problem. Our own Will Knight went on a journey to the bleeding edge of AI research and philosophy to find out how we can tackle the problem.

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The Government’s War on Botnets
A prolific botnet has fallen. Following the arrest of Russian hacker Peter Levashov in Spain over the weekend, the Justice Department announced that the FBI is dismantling the Kelihos botnet that he controlled. The army of weaponized computers, at times numbering 100,000 devices, was rented out to criminals who wanted to steal login details, send spam e-mail, and perform ransomware attacks. The news is a clear signal that the U.S. government is doubling down on one of the most pernicious cyber threats of the day—but it still has plenty of work to do.

Energy Industry CO2 Emissions Continue to Fall
Electricity production is getting greener. New figures show that U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell by 1.7 percent in 2016—the second year they’ve fallen, and part of a decade-long trend. The reason, says the Energy Information Administration: decreased use of coal, increased use of renewables and shale gas, and warmer weather that led to reduced power demands. It’s good news, especially as the economy also grew over the same period—but there’s still a way to go, as global CO2 concentrations continue to rise faster than ever.

Ten Fascinating Things

The notion of retraining Appalachia’s entire displaced coal workforce seems at best ambitious. But a large helping of entrepreneurial spirit could just make it happen.

CIA hacking tools described in documents published by WikilLeaks appear to have been linked to 40 cyber attacks carried out in 16 countries.

Here's a radical new treatment idea for Parkinson’s: inject a virus designed to reprogram cells directly into the brain to relieve the disease’s troubling symptoms.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai doesn't want you to make cell phone calls aboard airplanes.

Facial recognition can happily track a single face on CCTV, but a new algorithm can follow hundreds of people in densely crowded environments.

With humans and robots set to use the roads together, is it time to reboot the traffic signal? Here’s what the intersections of the future could look like.

Georgia Tech’s new Tarzan robot is designed to swing through the air like its namesake so that it can monitor the health of crops beneath.

These are the Chinese millenials that have quit their jobs to trade Bitcoin.

When you tap in a PIN to unlock your phone, the device moves as your hand twists and reaches. Now, an AI can interpret those movements to work out the code.

What’s in a stack? A term usually used to describe a collection of software is becoming a go-to metaphor in all kinds of industries.

Quote of the Day

"I consider myself part nanny, part chauffeur. A lot of these people just need someone to talk to."

—Uber driver Rachel Bolles explains why she isn’t afraid of her job being automated out of existence quite yet.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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