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Facebook’s Violence Problem, Engineering an Astronaut, and Christianity vs. Transhumanism—The Download, April 18, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

The Growing Case for Geoengineering
Desperate times call for desperate measures—but it may pay to know how to deploy them. As the world continues to warm, some researchers argue that we should now be testing extreme measures to combat the effects of climate change in case the worst does happen. While the idea of engineering the planet is not a new one, many believe the idea of, say, releasing tons of dust into the skies to modify clouds is preposterous. But, asks our own James Temple, the real question is: preposterous compared to what?

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Cleaning Up Violence on Facebook
Facebook vows to “do better” at removing violent content. Over the weekend, Steve Stephens shot and killed Robert Godwin, posting a video of the murder and a live-streamed confession to the social network. The video remained online for 2 hours, clocking up over 1.6 million views before being removed. Facebook has come under fire for struggling to police violent content before, and its VP of Global Operations says that it will work harder to stop similar incidents in future, reaffirming that AI will help the social network to crack the problem—though it remains unclear how and when.

Gene-editing the Perfect Astronaut
Before heading to Mars, reinvent the human race. The rigors of long-term space travel will demand different qualities to a life spent on Earth: humans able to cope with high levels of radiation and low concentrations of oxygen, for instance, could thrive. But while the perfect combination of attributes is unlikely to occur naturally, the dawn of reliable gene editing means that they could soon be hard-coded into a human. Our own Antonio Regalado explains how scientists are pondering whether to rejigger the human genome to make the ideal astronaut.

Ten Fascinating Things

Meghan O'Gieblyn was once an evangelical Christian. But when she lost her faith and embraced transhumanism, she found that things didn’t seem all that different.

How can we fight disease-causing bacteria that lurk deep within our gut? By popping CRISPR inside a pill.

How do you sift through stacks of satellite imagery to hunt for exoplanets? Turn it into part of a video game.

Using smartphone data and AI to track and interpret behavior, a startup is predicting and preventing relapse into drug use.

Here’s how a chip revolution could make VR way better, far sooner than you might think.

On a stretch of highway along Interstate 95, innovation is in the air. Quite literally: this is America’s nexus of anti-odor technology.

To give the world Internet, we're putting more satellites into space. New simulations suggest that we might have to get used to far more orbital collisions along the way.

The Trump administration is certainly changing the way your private information is handled online, we’re just not quite sure how.  Welcome to Internet privacy limbo.

Waiting for Wi-Fi connections, e-mail downloads, and apps to open—these are dead time in your day. Perhaps you could learn a language while you’re idling.

A plywood fuselage, some hobbyist electronics, and a few servo motors for steering. It sounds like a school project, but it’s a new Marines drone.

Quote of the Day

"The algorithm that allows systems to self-improve is perhaps 10 lines of pseudocode. What we are missing at the moment is perhaps just another five lines."

— Machine learning pioneer Jürgen Schmidhuber describes what he thinks is missing from a general intelligence.

Deep Dive


Capitalizing on machine learning with collaborative, structured enterprise tooling teams

Machine learning advances require an evolution of processes, tooling, and operations.

The race to destroy PFAS, the forever chemicals 

Scientists are showing these damaging compounds can be beat.

How scientists are being squeezed to take sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine

Tensions over the war are flaring on social media—with real-life ramifications.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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