Google’s AI Land Grab, Mar-a-Lago’s Awful Cybersecurity, and Making Blood in the Lab—The Download, May 17, 2017

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Google is busy building a future where everyone relies on its AI chops.
At Google's I/O developer conference, the company's made it clear: everyone should use its AI wares. And that extends to people building AIs, too. Our own Will Knight reports that the firm has built powerful new machine learning chips that can be strung together into supercomputers, and it plans for the best AI researchers to use them. At the other end of the spectrum, it's also developing AI software that builds AI software, so non-experts can also use its tools to build their own systems.

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Scientists have finally grown blood stem cells in the lab.
Two new studies show it may be possible to treat sufferers of blood disorders using their own cells rather than bone marrow transplants. Scientists at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts successfully turned human stem cells into the cells that produce red and white blood cells and platelets. A team at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City achieved a similar feat starting with mouse cells. Results decades in the making, they may one day help create blood transfusions in the lab.

As more NSA hack leaks loom, what should the government do to stop them?
This past week, not one but two attacks have made use of vulnerabilities that were identified, weaponized, then lost by the U.S. National Security Agency. Now, the Shadow Brokers hacking collective that leaked those NSA files has threatened to release more every month. A bill proposed in Congress Wednesday seeks to improve the review process followed when new flaws are found by the government. But should security agencies even be allowed to stockpile software bugs anyway?

Ten Fascinating Things

  1. Google’s other big news from its I/O developer conference is the progress being made on its VR technology. Backchannel has the inside track.
  2. Take some stem cells. Add tiny bubbles and a pinch of gene therapy. Activate with a burst of ultrasound. Voilà: a new way to heal major bone fractures.
  3. Unpredictable AI sounds like a nightmare scenario. But new research shows that its presence can actually help humans to collaborate more effectively.
  4. Wood has fallen out of vogue as a building material. But skyscrapers made of dead tree are growing ever taller (and could suck up lots of CO2 as they go).
  5. Why are Chinese chemical companies interested in buying billion-dollar Western video game firms? Good question. Bloomberg has the answer.
  6. Behold, the world’s largest wind turbines, each a whopping 195 meters tall, which are now generating electricity off the North West coast of England.
  7. Plasma jet engines, which cast aside regular fuel for electricity that turns air into hot, dense, ionized soup, may soon burst out of a lab and onto airplanes.
  8. Apple is finally assembling iPhones in India, a move that will enable it to sell more hardware in the country.
  9. Facebook has been fined $122 million for misleading EU officials over privacy issues during its acquisition of WhatsApp.
  10. A new investigation shows that digital security at four Trump properties—including Mar-a-Lago—is lacking, with networks wide open to being hacked.

Quote of the Day

"Everything feels like the future but us."

— A Tesla worker describes conditions in the company’s Fremont, California auto manufacturing plant as part of a Guardian investigation.

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