The Download

What's up in emerging technology

February 16, 2018 Rober Mueller

Russians accused of information warfare used tech to whip up controversy and cover their tracks

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller (pictured above) has charged 13 Russians and three organizations, including the Internet Research Agency, with alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Misinformation Inc.: The meddling was widely known,… Read more

Image credit:
  • Alex Wong | Getty Images

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Higher income inequality takes cash out of an economy. While the top 20% of Americans save 23.6% of their income, the top 1% save 51.2%

Here’s how automation will hollow out the American economy

A new study by Bain & Company found that automation could exacerbate inequality in the US.

Why? The study shows that automation will disproportionately hit middle- and low-income jobs. Its benefits—such as productivity gains and new investment—accrue… Read more

Editor's Pick

“We’re in a diversity crisis”: cofounder of Black in AI on what’s poisoning algorithms in our lives

Artificial intelligence is an increasingly seamless part of our everyday lives, present in everything from web searches to social media to home assistants like Alexa. But what do we do if this massively important technology is unintentionally, but fundamentally,...

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February 16, 2018 A US military drone

Germany says it won’t use killer robots, but soldiers are torn

Autonomous weapons remain incredibly controversial, and the debate even extends to the soldiers that might be working with them.

Germany says no: At this week’s Munich Security Conference, notes Reuters, the head of Germany’s Cyber and Information Space… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Airman Magazine

A detailed virtual house will help robots train to become your butler

A new digital training ground that replicates an average home lets AI learn how to do simple chores like slicing apples, making beds, or carrying drinks in a low-stakes environment.

Background: We all want a robot to run around our home and fetch us… Read more

Image credit:
  • Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2)
Kevin Chow | Unsplash

New drone-meets-helicopter incidents may spur tighter airspace rules

Collisions and near-misses are renewing concerns about hobbyist drone pilots getting in the way of larger aircraft.

Two crashes: A helicopter crashed in South Carolina this week, allegedly because it had to maneuver to avoid a drone. (It may be the first… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Kevin Chow | Unsplash
Source code is required

Researchers are struggling to replicate AI studies

Missing code and data are making it difficult to compare machine-learning work—and that may be hurting progress.

The problem:  Science reports that from a sample of 400 papers at top AI conferences in recent years, only 6 percent of presenters shared… Read more

Source: Image credit:
  • Blake Connally | Unsplash

Editor's Pick

Missing the Paris climate target by just a little means raising the odds of extreme weather by a lot

While the lofty goal of the landmark Paris climate agreement was to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 °C, it’s increasingly unlikely the world will pull that off (see “Global warming’s worst-case projections look increasingly likely”).


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February 15, 2018 Broad Institute CRISPR diagnostic test

CRISPR could enable quick, reliable medical tests

You’ve heard of CRISPR as a way to edit or delete genes. Now, two leading biologists say it could also be used to detect cancer or viruses.

What it did: Jennifer Doudna’s team at the University of California, Berkeley used a CRISPR-based test to accurately… Read more

Image credit:
  • Zhang lab, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

Want to 3-D-print your next office? Here’s the formula.

As unsexy as it sounds, a new set of equations may be the secret to 3-D printing for construction.

The problem: Firms like 3D Printhuset have tried printing buildings out of concrete on-site, but it can take a long time and the machines have a habit… Read more

Image credit:
  • Eindhoven University of Technology