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Robot Builders, Alexa’s New Eyes, and Medical AI Secrets—The Download, April 27, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Weighing the Worry of Medical AI Secrets
Would you trust a doctor who couldn’t explain their diagnosis? AI can increasingly keep up with physicians: neural networks can spot skin cancers as well as dermatologists, while machine learning algorithms diagnose some eye diseases on a par with ophthalmologists. But these systems don't identify problems based on rules—in fact, their uncanny abilities are developed internally and, for now at least, remain impossible to explain. We investigate whether that matters.

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The Bid to Scrap Net Neutrality Starts ... Now
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai has outlined how he'll roll back net neutrality. His (vague) plan: reclassify broadband as a telecom, rather than information, service in order to loosen government oversight. Critics worry it will allow Internet providers to throttle traffic in exchange for payment, but Pai argues, perhaps correctly, that neutrality stifles innovation. A vote on May 18th will decide if the move goes ahead—but with a Republican majority at the FCC, it probably will.

Putting Up Walls? Robots Have It Down
Send the laborers home, because a robot can build you a house—almost. A new machine developed at MIT and described in Science Robotics was able to construct the largest building ever 3-D printed by a mobile robot, putting up an igloo-like dome 14.6 meters across in 13.5 hours. It’s not alone in the construction yard: automated bricklayers and wire weavers also promise to help create the buildings of the future. Though, so far, none of them seem able to add the roof.

Ten Fascinating Things

We’re 100 days into Donald Trump’s presidency and, frankly, none the wiser about his real stance on many pressing tech issues.

Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant now has eyes—and it will use them to tell you how good your outfit is.

Chinese scientists have developed cells that can be activated via a smartphone to produce insulin and dump it into the bloodstream.

Cities of the future will be automated, efficient … and, perhaps, incredibly lonely.

Good news for those afraid of Trump’s coal revival: a Columbia University report suggests that regulations have played only a minor role in the fuel’s decline.

Two new studies show how it’s possible to create ever-more advanced brain-like structures in a Petri dish using neurons grown from stem cells.

Be careful what you click on: the number of ransomware attacks rose by 50 percent in 2016, and they're increasingly carried out via phishing scams.

Researchers are now able to use a chemical technique to make bone transparent, allowing them to peer inside and see the marrow within. 

If Chris Vickery ever calls you, it’s time to act fast—because he makes a living spotting data breaches and alerting firms to the problems before criminals notice.

Rembrandt or rip-off? How new technological tools are waging a war on art fraud.

Quote of the Day

"A lot of people out there ... have difficulty forming traditional relationships with other people. It’s really all about giving those people some level of companionship."

— Model maker and roboticist Matt McMullen describes his motivation for building a sex robot.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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