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Factory Robot Hacks, Electric Medication, and Laws Against Encryption—The Download, May 4, 2017

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3,000 new workers won't fix Facebook's violent video problem.
Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he’ll swell the ranks of a Facebook team dedicated to reviewing reports of the inappropriate content that currently plagues the social network. (At least, until AI advances enough to take up the job.) As our own Rachel Metz points out, though, there may simply be too much content for his extra moderators to police. Meanwhile, Wired argues that Facebook too often ignores these kinds of thorny issues, instigating big change only after damage is done—and suggests that a chief ethics officer may have proven a better hire.

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It's just a matter of time until factory robots get hacked.
Industrial robots are pervading, but research suggests that not enough is being done to keep them secure. A new report reveals that robot arms commonly used in factories are vulnerable to attack and often left exposed via Internet connections. In fact, the researchers found 83,673 such machines that way. The worry: hacks could sabotage production lines, halt output via ransomware, or injure humans, unless robot makers start treating security like the computer industry (tries to).

Apple’s $1 billion manufacturing boost? It's nice, but not enough.
Tim Cook has announced a fund to invest $1 billion into U.S. companies that perform advanced manufacturing. It will cheer Donald Trump, who has argued that the firm should build more products in America. But some context: Apple gave the same amount to Chinese ride-hailer Didi Chuxing, spends $50 billion per year with U.S. suppliers, and has $257 billion in cash overseas. So it’s a nice gesture, but a relatively small one that won’t bring American manufacturing jobs roaring back.

Ten Fascinating Things

  1. The next blockbuster drug may owe its success to AI: how deep learning will find patterns in genomic and medical data to inspire new therapies.
  2. India and Pakistan are renewing their love affair with coal—but with America as a role model, that’s hardly surprising.
  3. Hold on one apple-pickin’ minute! Orchard laborers will need to watch their jobs now that robots can spot and pluck fruits just as well humans.
  4. The nervous and immune systems seem unconnected, but Nature explains how tiny electric shocks may help the former to stimulate the latter.
  5. AI is a black box to humans, but Nvidia is letting people peer inside to see how its self-driving car technology works.
  6. This Bloomberg piece describes how Microsoft continues to out-innovate Apple with new hardware. Question is: are we ready to buy the future?
  7. This striking photo essay explores the epic scale of Airbus’s assembly line.
  8. A new blood test can discern the genetic subtleties of different prostate cancers, which should allow doctors to target treatments more effectively.
  9. How does an ecologist go about counting bird populations? Nowadays, using high-resolution satellite imagery to identify the creatures one-by-one.
  10. No water? No problem, at least for the United Arab Emirates: one Abu Dhabi firm plans to tow icebergs from Antarctica to harvest pure drinking water.

Quote of the Day

"I could imagine a world that ends up with legislation saying: if you are going to make devices in the U.S., you figure out how to comply with court orders."

— FBI director James Comey admits that he can foresee a future in which encrypted devices are governed by law.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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