Category : Science & Technology
(60 Minutes) Silicon Valley programmers are engineering your phone and its apps to make you as addicted to them as possible
That phone in your pocket is like a slot machine. Every time you check it, you’re pulling the lever to see if you get a reward.
At least that’s how former Google product manager Tristan Harris sees it. This week on 60 Minutes, he tells correspondent Anderson Cooper that Silicon Valley programmers are engineering your phone and its apps to make you check them more and more.
Take Snapchat. It’s the app that teens rank as “most important social network,” according to a Piper Jaffray report, and it’s keeping teens hooked by design. Snapchat’s “streaks” feature shows the number of days in a row that two people have traded photos, and the anxiety of breaking a streak is real.
After losing her faith, a former evangelical Christian felt adrift in the world. She then found solace in a radical technological philosophy – but its promises of immortality and spiritual transcendence soon seemed unsettlingly familiar….
Today’s widespread materialist view that events contrary to the laws of science just can’t happen is a metaphysical doctrine, not a scientific fact. What’s more, the doctrine that the laws of nature are “inviolable” is not necessary for science to function. Science offers natural explanations of natural events. It has no power or need to assert that only natural events happen.
So if science is not able to adjudicate whether Jesus’ resurrection happened or not, are we completely unable to assess the plausibility of the claim? No. Contrary to increasingly popular opinion, science is not our only means for accessing truth. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we must consider the historical evidence, and the historical evidence for the resurrection is as good as for almost any event of ancient history. The extraordinary character of the event, and its significance, provide a unique context, and ancient history is necessarily hard to establish. But a bare presumption that science has shown the resurrection to be impossible is an intellectual cop-out. Science shows no such thing.
Hypothesis 3: I was brainwashed as a child. If you’ve read this far and you are still wondering how an MIT professor could seriously believe in the resurrection, you might guess I was brainwashed to believe it as a child. But no, I did not grow up in a home where I was taught to believe in the resurrection. I came to faith in Jesus when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge University and was baptized in the chapel of Kings College on my 20th birthday. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are as compelling to me now as then.
(MIT Tech. Review) The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI–No one really knows how the most advanced algorithms do what they do
…The car didn’t follow a single instruction provided by an engineer or programmer. Instead, it relied entirely on an algorithm that had taught itself to drive by watching a human do it.
Getting a car to drive this way was an impressive feat. But it’s also a bit unsettling, since it isn’t completely clear how the car makes its decisions. Information from the vehicle’s sensors goes straight into a huge network of artificial neurons that process the data and then deliver the commands required to operate the steering wheel, the brakes, and other systems. The result seems to match the responses you’d expect from a human driver. But what if one day it did something unexpected—crashed into a tree, or sat at a green light? As things stand now, it might be difficult to find out why. The system is so complicated that even the engineers who designed it may struggle to isolate the reason for any single action. And you can’t ask it: there is no obvious way to design such a system so that it could always explain why it did what it did.
The mysterious mind of this vehicle points to a looming issue with artificial intelligence. The car’s underlying AI technology, known as deep learning, has proved very powerful at solving problems in recent years, and it has been widely deployed for tasks like image captioning, voice recognition, and language translation. There is now hope that the same techniques will be able to diagnose deadly diseases, make million-dollar trading decisions, and do countless other things to transform whole industries.
But this won’t happen—or shouldn’t happen—unless we find ways of making techniques like deep learning more understandable to their creators and accountable to their users. Otherwise it will be hard to predict when failures might occur—and it’s inevitable they will.
A three day conference of international theologians has taken place – with the organisers in Jerusalem but the participants taking part via the internet.The intercontinental webinar of theologians from the global south was hosted from St George’s College and funded by the Saint Augustine’s Foundation.
It was led by Bishop Graham Kings, Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion and Dr Muthuraj Swamy, Associate Professor in Theology & Religion in Pune, India.
Theologians from the Middle East, Nigeria, Myanmar, South Sudan, Egypt, Brazil and Tokyo were among those joining the link up. They had all prepared papers on reconciliation and mission which will go towards a book on that theme ahead of the next Lambeth Conference in 2020.
Here’s what happens. You are lying on an operating table, fully conscious, but rendered otherwise insensible, otherwise incapable of movement. A humanoid machine appears at your side, bowing to its task with ceremonial formality. With a brisk sequence of motions, the machine removes a large panel of bone from the rear of your cranium, before carefully laying its fingers, fine and delicate as a spider’s legs, on the viscid surface of your brain. You may be experiencing some misgivings about the procedure at this point. Put them aside, if you can.
You’re in pretty deep with this thing; there’s no backing out now. With their high-resolution microscopic receptors, the machine fingers scan the chemical structure of your brain, transferring the data to a powerful computer on the other side of the operating table. They are sinking further into your cerebral matter now, these fingers, scanning deeper and deeper layers of neurons, building a three-dimensional map of their endlessly complex interrelations, all the while creating code to model this activity in the computer’s hardware. As the work proceeds, another mechanical appendage – less delicate, less careful – removes the scanned material to a biological waste container for later disposal. This is material you will no longer be needing.
At some point, you become aware that you are no longer present in your body. You observe – with sadness, or horror, or detached curiosity – the diminishing spasms of that body on the operating table, the last useless convulsions of a discontinued meat.
The animal life is over now. The machine life has begun.
Read it all from the Guardian.
Silicon Valley sells the world the idea that it wants to make things better. It exists, the rhetoric goes, not just to make products but to make progress. If that’s the case, it’s focusing on the wrong things.
“It’s distressing sometimes to see the amount of effort—not just human effort but also the rhetoric—to develop stuff that turns out to be apps or toys for rich people,” says SUNY Polytechnic Institute historian Andrew Russell, an outspoken critic of the cult of innovation . “Saying ‘We’re innovating and that is by default making a world a better place,’ and then patting yourself on the back and getting in your Tesla and driving to your seaside ranch is missing the point.”
The harm here isn’t just that Silicon Valley is trying to solve the wrong problem, which wastes brainpower and resources. The focus on innovating away death sets a cultural tone that directs attention from answers that might actually help, like infrastructure or education. Russell says kids deciding what they want to be when they grow up aspire to become like the titans in Silicon Valley—risking that they’ll grow up wanting to solve the wrong problems.
Companies doing Good(II): Google equips buses with wifi and offers computers to South Carolina students who have a long ride daily
Eighth-grader Lakaysha Governor spends two hours on the bus getting back and forth to school each day. Thanks to a grant from Google, she can now use that time more productively and get her homework done.
The aspiring forensic anthropologist is one of nearly 2,000 students in rural Berkeley County who will ride to school on one of 28, Google-funded, Wi-Fi-equipped school buses unveiled Monday.
The technology giant also has given the school district 1,700 Chromebooks, the stripped-down laptops on which many schoolchildren now do their class and homework.
As more class assignments and homework migrate online, such long bus rides have generally counted as lost time in preparing for the next school day. But Google said it hopes to help expand the use of Wi-Fi on school buses in other rural areas elsewhere around the country.
More young men are dropping out of job market to spend time in an alternate reality..the beginning of something big?
David Mullings was always a self-starter. Born in Jamaica, he moved to Florida to go to university, and founded his first company – a digital media firm that helped Caribbean content find a wider audience – before finishing business school at the University of Miami. In 2011 he opened a private-equity firm with his brother. In 2013 the two made their first big deal, acquiring an 80% stake in a Tampa-based producer of mobile apps. A year later it blew up in their faces, sinking their firm and their hopes.
Mullings struggled to recover from the blow. The odd consulting gig provided a distraction and some income. Yet depression set in as he found himself asking whether he had anything useful to contribute to the wider world.
Then Destiny called.
Read it all from the 1843 magazine.
The notion of tinkering with an embryo’s DNA – let alone creating designer babies – makes many of us recoil. But let us not forget the shock and horror at the news of the first “test-tube baby,” Louise Brown, in 1978.
After her birth, her parents received blood-spattered hate mail (and a tiny plastic fetus). Now we call it IVF, and no one bats an eye.
Technologies that allow parents to pick and choose embryos based on genetic testing are already a quarter of a century old. But the dawn of CRISPR, a technology that can “edit” mutated DNA at the embryo stage, has raised the spectre of Nazi-era eugenics and identikit babies out of a sci-fi thriller.
What if laws were in place to forbid scientists from using technologies to create the superrace we fear? What if we had consensus, and an ethical framework, to decide which embryos should live, and which should die?
Such questions are the beating heart of science journalist Bonnie Rochman’s new book, The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have, published in February.
What would you like to say to students who have an interest in science at a young age? And what would you like to share with parents or grandparents who fear that science and faith don’t mix?
One of my heroes in science is Johannes Kepler, who was probably the first physical astronomer. He actually broke out in song because he discovered something really cool in science and astronomy. He wrote about it in a notebook, giving glory to God for that new finding. The idea that we “explore the world that God created” really resonates with me. And it’s basically what I do.
We have a way, as scientists, to explore the world and try to understand what God created. He gave us a playground, if you will, to actually go and explore the world.
Transhumanism is a loosely-defined cultural, intellectual and technical movement that describes itself as seeking to “to overcome fundamental human limitations” including death, aging, and natural physical, mental and psychological limitations, says humanity+, a transhumanist online community.
The movement overlaps greatly with posthumanism, which posits that a new, biologically superior race is on the horizon, and could replace the human race as we know it. Posthumanists support technologies such as cryogenic freezing, mood-and-intelligence-enhancing drugs, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, bionics and “uploading” a mind to an artificial intelligence.
These movements stem from the idea that human limitations are just “technical problems” that need to be overcome, said history professor Yuval Noah Harari in a 2015 interview in “Edge,” a non-profit website devoted to the advancement of technology….
Although a handful of quantum-enabled sensors, modest quantum networks and rudimentary quantum computers are already in use, they still fall short of fully exploiting quantum advantages, and few of them are ready to be widely deployed. According to McKinsey, a consulting firm, in 2015 about 7,000 people worldwide, with a combined budget of about $1.5bn, were working on quantum-technology research (see chart). Industrialisation will boost those numbers.
What is notable about the effort now is that the challenges are no longer scientific but have become matters of engineering. The search is on for smaller atomic clocks, for example; for a means to amplify and route quantum-communications signals; and for more robust “qubits” (of which more later) for quantum computing. Startups are embracing the technology with gusto, and tech giants have already planted their flags. There is wide agreement that Google is furthest along in quantum-computer technology and that Microsoft has the most comprehensive plan to make the software required.
Public money is flowing in, too. National and supranational funding bodies are backing increasingly ambitious quantum-technology efforts. Britain has a programme worth £270m ($337m) and the European Union has set aside €1bn ($1.08bn) for a pan-European programme. Many quantum technologies have security implications, so defence departments are also providing funding.
Many firms are already preparing for a quantum-technology future.
<a href=”http://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2017-03-09/quantum-devices#s-3″>Read it all</a>.
Q. What makes you think that people have become addicted to digital devices and social media?
A. In the past, we thought of addiction as mostly related to chemical substances: heroin, cocaine, nicotine. Today, we have this phenomenon of behavioral addictions where, one tech industry leader told me, people are spending nearly three hours a day tethered to their cellphones. Where teenage boys sometimes spend weeks alone in their rooms playing video games. Where Snapchat will boast that its youthful users open their app more than 18 times a day.
Behavioral addictions are really widespread now. A 2011 study suggested that 41 percent of us have at least one. That number is sure to have risen with the adoption of newer more addictive social networking platforms, tablets and smartphones.