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Facebook’s Human Problem, Artificial Wombs, and AI Script Writers—The Download, April 26, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Facebook's Biggest Problem May Be an Eternal Human Issue
Mark Zuckerberg continues to toil with human problems confronting Facebook. In the last ten days, video of a tragic murder of an 11-month-old child in Thailand and a fatal shooting in Cleveland have been shared on the social network. The New York Times has interrogated the social network's role as a gatekeeper of content, and the impression is that Zuckerberg is deeply concerned but just hasn’t found the answer. As Buzzfeed argued, there's a "dark human history" of using technology for ill—which may explain, if not excuse, why Zuckerberg is struggling now.

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Clean Tech Innovation Is Trailing Off
These last last two years we’ve had fewer green ideas. A study by the Brookings Institution reveals that the number of clean energy patents granted in America doubled between 2001 and 2014 but fell by 9 percent since. It’s a tough sector in which to make a buck, and could be a result of Obama’s Recovery Act finally running dry. Mark Muro, an author of the report, tells the Download that it’s not time to panic, but points out that in unison with “big proposed cuts in the federal R&D budget and the possible elimination of ARPA-E [it could] prompt serious worries.”

Can an Online Startup School Really Work?
Every budding entrepreneur wants to get a spot on Y Combinator. That's understandable—it spawned Dropbox and Airbnb, after all—but space on the program is tight and a strict regime demands that founders move to California for several months. So the accelerator decided to set up an online Startup School, to equip 3,000 Elon Musk wannabes with the skills required to disrupt their chosen sector. Our own Rachel Metz investigates how useful the course will be.

Ten Fascinating Things

Doctors have kept fetal lambs alive in plastic artificial wombs for weeks, a technology that could soon help improve the care of premature babies.

Google is tweaking its search algorithms and adding new reporting tools in order to help tackle fake news and offensive content.

One of the best ways to learn is to ask someone for advice when you’re confused—which is exactly what this robot is able to do.

Uber has ambitiously promised that its flying taxi vision will become a reality by 2020. (Relatedly: is it time we stopped calling these things flying cars?)

By using lasers to identify the distinctive noises made by the beating wings of mosquitos, researchers might be able to find new ways to fight malaria.

Boston Dynamics, the manufacturer of many a nightmarish robot, has been testing its mechanical dog, Spot, for package delivery in Boston.

These tiny finger wearables let people touch what’s not there in virtual reality.

Tiny water droplets in fog scatter light, making it impossible for us to see. But a new trick could overcome that to help lidar work better in extreme weather.

China has built and launched its first ever homegrown aircraft carrier—a very public flex of its increasingly advanced technological muscle.

An artificial intelligence scriptwriter produced every line for David Hasselhoff to act out in this very strange short short film. It's as surreal as it sounds.

Quote of the Day

"It may not be enough for us that machines make the right judgments—even the ideal judgments."

— Psychology researchers Jim Everett, David Pizarro, and Molly Crockett describe why humans seem to be so reluctant to trust robots.

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Large language models can do jaw-dropping things. But nobody knows exactly why.

And that's a problem. Figuring it out is one of the biggest scientific puzzles of our time and a crucial step towards controlling more powerful future models.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

How scientists traced a mysterious covid case back to six toilets

When wastewater surveillance turns into a hunt for a single infected individual, the ethics get tricky.

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