The Download

What's up in emerging technology

Today Chatbots may need to offend you

Better chatbots might need to offend you

AIs have gotten better at holding a conversation, but tech firms are wary of rolling them out for fear of PR nightmares.

Better ‘bots:  The New York Times says recent AI advances helped Microsoft and Facebook to build a “new breed” of chatbots that carefully… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Oksana Latysheva from the Noun Project

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AI is learning how to spot risky websites for you

Machine learning can sniff out tell-tale signs of shady URLs so you don’t get phished.
The problem: The internet is riddled with websites set up for the sole purpose of stealing a user’s information or installing malware on a victim’s machine. Antivirus… Read more

Image credit:
  • Jackie Snow

Editor's Pick

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2018

Every year since 2001 we’ve picked what we call the 10 Breakthrough Technologies. People often ask, what exactly do you mean by “breakthrough”? It’s a reasonable question—some of our picks haven’t yet reached widespread use, while others may be on the...

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Yesterday An Oxbotica car finds its place in the world

The race to map the world for autonomous cars is on—and messy

Automakers and tech firms want high-definition maps to help robo-cars drive, but the best way to build them remains unclear. So says a new report from Bloomberg.

Two approaches: “One aims to create complete high-definition maps that will let the driverless… Read more

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  • Oxbotica
A fruit stall

DNA-tuned diets don’t seem to work

Attempts to lose weight more effectively by choosing food tailored to your genes may be a fruitless endeavor. So says an $8 million study into the concept.

The news: The study assigned 609 people to low-fat or low-carb diets. Analysis of whether those… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Davidson Luna | Unsplash
February 20, 2018 Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has been sharing user data with Stanford to study US inequality

The social network is working with economists to throw light on America’s widening income gap.

The news:  Politico reports that Facebook is sharing data with Stanford economist Raj Chetty and his researchers. Facebook confirmed the partnership to Politico… Read more

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  • Facebook
Pyongyang, North Korea

North Korea’s hacking abilities are even stronger than we thought

Pyongyang has a surprisingly powerful cyber-espionage team at its disposal, according to a new report.

The news: Security researchers at FireEye have published research describing a hacking group called APT37, or Reaper. FireEye says that there is “high… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • (stephan) | Flickr

Editor's Pick

A smarter smart city

On Toronto’s waterfront, where the eastern part of the city meets Lake Ontario, is a patchwork of cement and dirt. It’s home to plumbing and electrical supply shops, parking lots, winter boat storage, and a hulking silo built in 1943 to store soybeans—a...

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February 20, 2018 The foreman for a mining company holds up a fragment of cobalt in Mpaza.

Our love of batteries is powering a boom in exploitative cobalt mines

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, some mines known to use child labor are benefiting from the electrification of our economy.

Backstory: The world wants lithium-ion batteries. But one of their key ingredients, cobalt, is in short supply. That makes… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Trocaire | Flickr

This video game wants to be a fake-news vaccine

By building up pretend propaganda empires, can we learn how news is weaponized against us?

The game: Players of the new video game Bad News, which has been built by a team of academics and journalists, must win social-media fans, bend the truth, and… Read more

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  • Bad News