Farewell Net Neutrality, Electing an AI President, and Amazon’s Goose Fixation—The Download, May 19, 2017

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The FCC's decided: so long, net neutrality.
The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 on Thursday in favor of reversing net neutrality rules. It must now start formal proceedings to make that happen. FCC chairman Ajit Pai called it “the start of a new chapter in ... how we ... maintain a free and open Internet,” arguing that the removal of the rules will spur innovation in Internet provision. As we’ve argued, he’s probably right on the final point, but the move could yet cause substantial headaches for content providers.

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Google knows it must make VR more accessible. Can it?
If you’re a virtual reality advocate, you’re in the minority. Hardware isn’t selling, the experience it offers is isolating, and there’s not much to do when you’re in there. Google has known of those problems for a while—its cheap Cardboard headset was a first attempt to solve some of them. But at its annual developer conference this week, it has outlined new plans to double down on expediting the adoption of the technology. Our own Rachel Metz explains how the firm plans to get real about VR.

It's time to shore up our electricity grids against hacks.
Last year, large parts of Ukraine’s capital city, Kiev, were plunged into darkness when 20 percent of its energy provision was shut down. This wasn't a regular power cut, though: it was a carefully orchestrated cyberattack. Sadly, that story foreshadows a potential future for the U.S., as moves to boost efficiency of ageing energy systems by connecting them to the Internet introduce unanticipated security risks. We investigate how to protect the grid so that lights stay on across America.

Ten Fascinating Things

  1. The world’s best StarCraft players have a message for the planet’s most advanced AIs: bring it on.
  2. Several trials are demonstrating that electrified streets, which charge vehicles as they move, could soon become reality. They might even prove useful.
  3. Uber has now officially unveiled its on-demand trucking service, Uber Freight. Here’s how it will work, surge pricing and all.
  4. The New York Times decided to visit Antarctica to find out first-hand how our planet's ice is changing. This is its first of three beautiful dispatches.
  5. Relatedly, a new study shows that sea level rises of 10 centimeters in the next 35 years could double the frequency of severe coastal floods.
  6. Would you vote for an AI president? Here’s why it may not be a bad idea.
  7. Drone imaging of fields, digital soil sensors, and solar-pumped irrigation—sounds like a Monsanto experiment, but is actually modern African farming.
  8. For their biggest test yet, Alphabet’s Internet-beaming balloons have provided tens of thousands of Peruvians with data for three months.
  9. A BBC investigation set out to trick the voice recognition systems that a British bank uses to secure its customer accounts. The trick worked.
  10. Forget the rudimentary motion of a quadcopter: an eight-rotored drone known as the omnicopter can move equally well in any direction.

Quote of the Day

"Geese will never be collaborative."

— Amazon’s Paul Misener explains why developing collision avoidance systems is a vital part of the company's experimental aerial delivery service.

 

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