Flying Taxi Hype, Rat Head Transplant, and Losing to AI—The Download, April 28, 2017
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Finding Solace in Defeat at the Hands of a Machine
How does it feel for a world champion to be beaten at his own game by a robot? Just over a year ago, Lee Sedol found out when DeepMind’s artificial intelligence challenged him to a tournament of Go and won in a crushing 4-1 victory. Now, a new documentary about the superhuman software shows what it’s like to represent humanity and lose. Having watched it, we reflect on what AlphaGo’s contenders went through, and what it means for the rest of us.
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Prepare To Be Disappointed by Flying Taxis
Silicon Valley’s vision of flying you around cities will be underwhelming. The first of the flying cars will, of course, require large wallets and a deal of bravery. But as Bloomberg notes, regulation could sap a lot of the fun: free-and-easy flying may look rather more like bus routes by the time air traffic control is involved. And Wired points out that any all-electric aircraft—which all these vehicles aspire to be—will by necessity be boring and simplistic at first. Consider your expectations managed.
Building AI to Weed Out Violence
Can we block violence in live video? Recent news suggests it would be desirable, but in truth it’s not easy. It’s certainly possible for AI to tell if someone is, say, playing guitar or drinking from a cup, but discerning between a punch or enthusiastic greeting requires understanding of context as well as image recognition. Reuters describes how many research teams are building solutions—but, as New Scientist ponders, implementing them will raise philosophical issues.
Ten Fascinating Things
The unmasking of FBI director James Comey’s Twitter account made for a great story, but it reveals a modern security problem that we should all be worried about.
In a white paper, Facebook admits that governments exploited it to spread propaganda and describes how it plans to crack down on the issue in future.
Chinese ride-hailer Didi Chuxing has raised $5.5 billion to fund its expansion into other countries, making it the world’s most valuable startup—after Uber.
A new exploration of the Dark Web reveals that it may not be much of a web after all.
The look of the Lexus being used in Apple's self-driving tests and the high caliber of the engineers sat inside suggest that the firm is severely lagging in the sector.
In Brooklyn, there’s a hardware renaissance taking place.
A new rat study explores how to avoid brain damage through blood loss during a head transplant by using a third animal to drive the circulation during the procedure.
While the private space race takes off, NASA eats dust: the first test of its Mars mission-enabling Space Launch System rocket is being pushed back to 2019.
A company called Nomx claims to provide hardware that offers the world’s most secure e-mail service, but the BBC reveals that it’s built on old, flawed technology.
Facebook and Google lost $100 million when they fell victim to a phishing scheme.
Quote of the Day
"My approach to flight was: why not augment the human mind and body, because they are amazing machines? So I just bolted on what was missing: thrust."
—British inventor Richard Browning describes how he developed the Iron Man-style flight suit that he showed off at this week’s TED conference in Vancouver.