The laws of physics allow time travel. So why haven’t people become chronological hoppers?
Scientists are warning machine learning will soon outsmart humans – maybe it’s time for us to take note
Last Monday an eminent, elderly British scientist lobbed a grenade into the febrile anthill of researchers and corporations currently obsessed with artificial intelligence or AI (aka, for the most part, a technology called machine learning). The scientist was Geoffrey Hinton, and the bombshell was the news that he was leaving Google, where he had been doing great work on machine learning for the last 10 years, because he wanted to be free to express his fears about where the technology he had played a seminal role in founding was heading.
To say that this was big news would be an epic understatement. The tech industry is a huge, excitable beast that is occasionally prone to outbreaks of “irrational exuberance”, ie madness. One recent bout of it involved cryptocurrencies and a vision of the future of the internet called “Web3”, which an astute young blogger and critic, Molly White, memorably describes as “an enormous grift that’s pouring lighter fluid on our already smoldering planet”.Continue reading…
We can learn from this.
Experts say neighbourhood varieties will suit an area’s pollinators, and that caution is needed when buying generic seed mixes
Gardeners hoping to establish a wildflower patch in their gardens should be wary of generic seed mixes and stick to local blooms to best serve wild pollinators, experts have said.
Conservationists are urging people to source not just native wildflowers but to find out what grows naturally in their neighbourhood by getting out in their area and looking for inspiration in existing meadows, verges and nature reserves. They should then use this as a guide to ensure they are collecting or buying the most suitable wildflowers for their gardens.Continue reading…
Newly discovered species with vivid orange and black markings named for evil ruler of Mordor to pique interest in conservation
Researchers have uncovered a new genus of butterfly, with distinctive orange wings and dark eyespots. It is a striking appearance that has led the international team to label the genus Saurona, after Sauron, the evil lord of Mordor whose all-seeing fiery eye brought terror to Middle-earth and the Shires in The Lord of the Rings.
It is an intriguing monicker. As JRR Tolkien describes it: “The Eye was rimmed with fire, but was itself glazed, yellow as a cat’s, watchful and intent, and the black slit of its pupil opened on a pit, a window into nothing.”Continue reading…
Homo sapiens forced out Neanderthals between 54,000 and 42,000 years ago, according to controversial new research
It took three separate waves of modern humans to colonise Europe between 54,000 and 42,000 years ago. That is the key conclusion of scientists who have been studying caves in the Rhone valley where they have discovered evidence that Homo sapiens had to make a trio of determined attempts to head westwards and northwards from western Asia before they could establish themselves in the continent.
“The first two of these waves failed but the third succeeded around 42,000 years ago,” said Ludovic Slimak of the University of Toulouse, who is leading the excavations in France. “After that, modern humans took over in Europe. The Neanderthals, who had evolved on the continent, died out.”Continue reading…
This week, the by far most successful article shared was our recently updated rebuttal "Are we heading into a new Ice Age?" which garnered about as many impressions as the other shared articles combined.
Links posted on Facebook
- Climate-change-driven Heat Waves: People told to stay home in Thailand; Fears of Wildfires, crop Failure in Spain by Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Apr 29, 2023
- This one could be a monster! by Dave Borlace, "Just have a think" on Youtube, Apr 30, 2023
- In Conversation – Laura Helmuth and Susan Hassol by Springer Nature Group, YouTube, Apr 26, 2023
- At a glance – Are we heading into a new Ice Age? by John Mason & BaerbelW, Skeptical Science, Apr 18, 2023
- Google Promised to Defund Climate Lies, but the Ads Keep Coming by Nico Grant and Steven Lee Myers, New York Times, May 2, 2023
- YouTube's Climate Denial Dollars by Climate Action Against Disinformation Coalition, Friends of the Earth, May 2, 2023
- Scientists‘ Stories by CSLDF Team, Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, May 3, 2023
- Skeptical Science New Research for Week #18 2023 by Doug Bostrom & Marc Kodack, Skeptical Science , May 3, 2023
- A mystery in the Pacific is complicating climate projections by Bob Henson, Yale Climate Connections, Apr 24, 2023
If you happen upon high quality climate-science and/or climate-myth busting articles from reliable sources while surfing the web, please feel free to submit them via this Google form for possible inclusion on our Facebook page. Thanks!
Although the acute phase of the pandemic may have passed, experts agree that the virus’s effects will remain profound
The global public emergency caused by
-19 may be officially over but the pandemic will still be with us for many years. Nor is it clear that governments have learned sufficiently from the outbreak to be ready to fight off new emerging microbes that could trigger worse calamities.
These are the stark conclusions of scientists reacting to last week’s news that the
(WHO) no longer considers Covid-19 – which has killed more than 7 million people over the past three years – to be a public health emergency of international concern.Continue reading…
It set us apart from all other species.
A tiny, orange Brazilian tree frog may be the first known amphibian pollinator, further broadening our understanding of which animals perform this crucial biological function
A huge Danish study shows that up to 30 percent of psychosis diagnoses in young men could have been prevented if these individuals hadn’t used marijuana heavily
Young children are taking melatonin gummy supplements, but experts say they should be a last resort to help with sleep
A thought experiment that’s dividing mathematicians can help illuminate how belief shapes rational decisions
SpaceX’s Starship launch site in southern Texas is now the subject of a lawsuit after the vehicle’s first flight caused concerning damage
Developing an allergy to your dog or cat can be a nightmare, but hyposensitization could offer permanent relief
Medication treatment for heroin addiction has come a long way since its pioneer died. But what would she think of the field today?
Lañilawal, a Patagonian cypress that may be one of the oldest trees on Earth, needs greater protection if scientists are to understand its secrets of survival, an environmental scientist says
’Tis the season for hordes of blue jellyfishlike creatures to wash up on California beaches
- On April 17 NASA and JAXA announced they would be partnering on the mission.
New results from a U.A.E. orbiter suggest Mars’s moons may be pieces of the planet. A Japanese mission will tell us for sure
- Last month an emergency rule by Missouri’s state attorney general placed new, onerous restrictions on adults seeking gender-affirming care, including blocking people diagnosed with autism and depression from accessing it.
Decades of data support the use and safety of puberty-pausing medications, which give transgender adolescents and their families time to weigh important medical decisions
New technology gleans the gist of stories a person hears while laying in a brain scanner
The Comstock Act is part of a federal case over access to abortion pills. A historical science-fiction writer weighs in on the legacy of 19th-century prudishness
The genome of the 1920s Siberian husky Balto suggests that greater genetic diversity and less inbreeding contribute to better health
These elements, dubbed “UNICORNs,” sit close to genes that affect smell, sleep and ways that people and other mammals interact with their surroundings
California blackworms make a contribution to the math and physics of knot tying by demoing twisting motions that help them escape a tangled worm ball
New research attempts to discern how bizarre particles of strange matter form in the nuclei of atoms
A severe drought that has led to near-famine conditions in the Horn of Africa would not have happened without the influence of climate change, a new analysis finds
Afghanistan’s rare and majestic woodlands can’t shake the echoes of war, desperation and poverty
With an apparent crash, the HAKUTO-R mission from the private space exploration company ispace has joined a long list of failed moon landers
The first timekeeping devices were probably natural materials lost to the ages, but the ancient Egyptians were the first to leave records of their timekeeping methods
We think about what a penguin is like in dozens of different ways—one reason why we often talk past each other
A gas giant planet’s youthful glow could explain major differences between its four largest satellites
Hi I found a book list on the sub but it appears to be very old. I'm interested in cogsci, especially memory. In addition, I'm interested in memory in mental illness, like anxiety, depression, and
Thank you for your help.
What's it for?
Have you started to feel the impact of image generation AIs? I saw some YouTube videos that used AI pictures. In the coming years there will be a graphic explosion.
Did we create a 'new normal'?
|submitted by /u/filosoful
|submitted by /u/nastratin
|submitted by /u/Searching4Buddha
A revolution in fashion.
|submitted by /u/izumi3682
The challenge: Transport 100 people and 3000 Kg of
(we allow an arbitrary max of 30 kg of cargo weight here) from Sweden to Los Angeles for less than 1500 Euro/Dollars. Current fastest time with petrol airplane is 15 hours. How close can one get to that, today?
Trains: Let's be generous, assume all train lines active today are loaded with the fastest high-speed train used today, and the same design is used everywhere in the world, for simplicity (and efficiency). Same track width, same angle ratios in turns.
Boats: either sails or electric engines, but local cable/chain driven ferries are allowed, as long as they're not diesel.
Airplanes: none. No electric engine for a large passenger plane class exists today. The best we can do is a 76-seater so far. That company sounds pretty optimistic, with a 80-seater ready five years from now, but I'm not very optimistic.
Some context: Why do I ask? Both because I want to be schooled, I want to feel hope and motivation from your great answers, illustrating things I hadn't thought of. Also, I want to visit the US some time in the coming ten years but I'd like to do it without contributing to air fumes, so I'd use whatever route you recommend in this thread (if money allows).
If I was omnipotent today I would ground all non-essential airplanes in the whole world (tourism, business, military), dock all fishing vessels (legal and poachers) and definitely all tourist ocean liners, they should be illegal. The cargo container/oil/gas super tankers that run on fossil fuels would have to disappear too, forcing whatever nonessential things transported by boat be transported by train instead, which could conceviably be powered by renewables. Mankind would have to find a way to combine electric hi-speed trains, a new order of size-efficient sailboats and electric-driven boat propellers, and electric plane engines. I would allow coast guard ships, forest-fire tracking/quenching airplanes, and fossil-driven organ transports/ambulance helicopters.
There are many reasons for this thought experiment, the chief of which is that if tourists really are dedicated to visit a country they haven't been to, they can accept to travel like Mark Twain (train and sailboat) and take a week to get where they want and be happy about it, or they can stay home. Tourists have no universal rights to promptness, just the same as industrialists shouldn't have the right to retain revenue by using newer technologies without passing some of the gains (or reduced work hours) to their workers.
So, what is the fastest travel you could make between these two points, under these restrictions? I can't list all the ways I think you will cheat (huehue) so I won't, more fun is better.
I've been reading up on how our future work landscape might shift as we transition to a post-work society. One intriguing idea that caught my attention is the emergence of decentralized and distributed organizations, like cooperatives and self-governing communities. These models seem to offer an alternative to traditional top-down hierarchies, potentially fostering greater collaboration, autonomy, and inclusivity.
I'm curious about your thoughts on this matter. What do you think the advantages and challenges of these new organizational models are? Can they effectively replace our current systems, or do you think they'll complement them in some way? Any real-world examples you know of that are already making the switch?
A tiny, orange Brazilian tree frog may be the first known amphibian pollinator, further broadening our understanding of which animals perform this crucial biological function
Inside a vault at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles lies a microscopic population of immense value—the repository for vernal pool fairy shrimp.
Hidden beneath the surface of the treasured strawberry is a unique branch of the evolutionary tree, where eight sets of chromosomes are better than two
Chloroplasts’ choreography keeps plant cells powered
Ova don’t make a woman, and sperm don’t make a man
Bacteria with artificial hydrogel skeletons could be used as tiny robots
The genome of the 1920s Siberian husky Balto suggests that greater genetic diversity and less inbreeding contribute to better health
These elements, dubbed “UNICORNs,” sit close to genes that affect smell, sleep and ways that people and other mammals interact with their surroundings
California blackworms make a contribution to the math and physics of knot tying by demoing twisting motions that help them escape a tangled worm ball
Lengthening days set off a cascade of events in migratory birds that culminates in the birth of a clutch of chicks
Researchers close in on a taxonomic home for one of paleontology’s weirdest wonders, the Tully Monster
Just two genes get tiny synthetic cells moving, offering clues to life’s evolution
A microbial discovery could help guide the search for life beyond Earth
Hibernating brown bears avoid the
that can develop in even temporarily immobile people. Scientists now think they know how the animals do it
Britain crowned a new monarch today, holding its first set-piece coronation ceremony in 70 years. In London’s Westminster Abbey, Charles III and his wife, Camilla, were crowned King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the other Commonwealth realms. Despite the rainy weather, crowds of well-wishers (and a few protesters) gathered outside along the Mall and in front of Buckingham Palace to greet the new King and Queen, and to witness the spectacle. Gathered below, images from the proceedings in London this morning.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34530-zPlasma chemokines
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38309-8Support Brønsted acid strength and density play important kinetically relevant roles in low temperature NH3-SCR over Cu-exchanged small pore zeolite catalysts. Here the authors demonstrate Brønsted acid sites facilitate hydrolysis and intercage transfer of CuII(NH3)4 intermediates.
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38378-9Genomic landscape studies of malignant
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38333-8Integration and comparison of multiple single cell sequencing datasets can be used to compare different studies. Here the authors propose MetaTiME which compares the gene expression of single cells from the tumour microenvironment across different tumours and uses transportable labels and metacomponents to annotate cell types and states.
Sometimes the scriptwriters of reality are a little too on the nose. The British throne, the centerpiece of today’s coronation of Charles III, not only houses a sacred artifact forcibly removed from its owners—the Stone of Destiny, taken from the Scots by Edward I in 1296—but is covered in schoolboy graffiti. According to one scrawl from 1800, someone named “P. Abbott” once slept in it. The Coronation Chair, as it’s officially known, also has damage from a 1914 bomb attack attributed to militant suffragettes.
It’s almost too much, isn’t it? The British monarchy is at once a symbol of colonialist plunder, a tradition that many Britons profess to love while cheerfully disrespecting, and an institution that has been dented but not defeated by the forces of social change. I bet the chair even creaks in a manner reminiscent of imperial decline. Britain might now seem like a fading power, but we are a world-beating exporter of metaphors about the state of our nation. At one point today, a gold coach drove under an arch that read HAPPY & GLORIOUS, in the pouring rain.
That default miserabilism isn’t really fair—if the coronation proved anything, it’s that a great number of people in Britain are incredibly talented, albeit at skills that were last useful in the 18th century. Did you know, for example, that there are such things as “drum horses,” which the riders steer with reins attached to their feet? We’ve also got heraldic trumpeters, master embroiderers, and someone who can fix the suspension on a gold coach. If you need a “unicorn pursuivant” at short notice, Britain has you covered.
[Helen Lewis: Prince Harry’s unwitting case for abolishing the monarchy]
Every moment of the coronation had been drilled to perfection. The new King had reportedly been practicing for the weight of St. Edward’s Crown by wearing a bowler hat with a bag of flour inside. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, prepared for his big moment with similar vigor. “I’ve been crowning anything that stood still long enough,” he told the British Broadcasting Corporation.
Watching the crowd assemble in Westminster Abbey was a ceremony in itself. Lionel Richie was there, as was Katy Perry, wearing what one of my friends described as a “very selfish hat.” Britain might be a midsize economy in the north Atlantic, but it can still draw a crowd. The two-hour service brought together foreign royals, including King Mswati III of Eswatini and Hereditary Prince Alois of Liechtenstein; homegrown aristocrats such as Merlin Hay, the 24th Earl of Erroll, and Edward Fitzalan-Howard, the 18th Duke of Norfolk; officials, such as Han Zheng, the vice president of China, who represent genuine world powers; and the British reality-show hosts Ant and Dec, whose most recent appearance on television featured them daring soap-opera stars to drink smoothies made out of a cow’s vagina.
The clothes accompanying the coronation ritual were, of course, both absurd and incredible. Penny Mordaunt, a former contender for prime minister, looked like a Bajoran ambassador on Star Trek as she carried an eight-pound sword up the aisle. Princess Anne wore a cape halfway between Hogwarts supply teacher and Batman. Jill Biden came in powder blue while her granddaughter Finnegan was in buttercup yellow, evoking the colors of the Ukraine flag. A coincidence? Possibly not, since Buckingham Palace yesterday released a photograph of the American first lady and her Ukrainian counterpart, Olena Zelenska, flanking Kate, Princess of Wales. Not to be outdone by Katy Perry, the South African soprano Pretty Yende performed a new work called “Sacred Fire” before the service in a huge yellow gown, from which her head emerged like the center of a daffodil. (Selfish shoulders.) The “working royals” were blinged up the eyeballs with the height of 12th-century fashion, while poor Prince Harry sloped down the aisle alone, in a suit. He then had to sit behind Princess Anne’s full Napoleonic bicorne.
[Helen Lewis: King Charles’s very hobbity coronation]
The overall vibe was “Disney on acid.” Who knew so much brocade existed? How many bishops do we have, exactly? I ran the BBC commentator’s sentence “King Charles chose to wear his royal naval trousers” through my brain several times before I could parse it. This was a ceremony precision-engineered over centuries to inspire awe, and if that sentiment is unattainable in the 21st century, my cynicism was at least briefly battered into submission. By the time Ralph Vaughan Williams’s version of “Greensleeves” started up, I was feeling so British that I wanted to challenge someone to a fight outside a pub. This, it turns out, is a common response to coronations. When the last Charles to sit on the British throne was crowned in 1666, the diarist Samuel Pepys got so drunk that night that he vomited and fell asleep: “Only when I waked I found myself wet with my spewing.” Charles II’s coronation went on for so long that Pepys left halfway through to take a leak, a choice that must have appealed to the congregation at Westminster Abbey as today’s ceremony approached the end of its second hour. As it was, official guidance from the palace had already assured us that Prince Louis, 5, might “retire during the service.”
Throughout the ceremony, Charles was an oddly passive figure, constantly being addressed or handed things. That makes sense; he is only King by the consent of his subjects, of whom there are likely to be fewer within decades. Polling by Lord Ashcroft, released this week, found that only 23 percent of Canadians want the King to remain their head of state, and majorities in both the Bahamas and the Solomon Islands favor becoming a republic. Britain itself has plenty of republicans, and many more apathetic undecideds—not that you would have known from most of the pre-coronation mainstream television and press coverage, which ranged from “deferential” all the way through to “fawning.” Earlier today, the Metropolitan Police—an outfit that never fails to live down to expectations—arrested several anti-monarchy protesters and confiscated their placards. Some have claimed they were told not to mention Prince Andrew and the “sex stuff.”
As my attention drifted while Charles was being shown a priceless book of gospels, I started thinking about what the monarchy offers Britain. The closest analogue I can imagine is a sports league or a cult television program, one that has been going on since before you were born and will carry on long after you die. My WhatsApp inbox was full of jokes about Windsor-pattern baldness; whether Meghan Markle, who did not attend the coronation, was fuming in California about how big a hat she could have worn; and whether Queen Camilla would be furiously vaping in the vestry between the ceremony and the procession. The Windsors provide all the exquisite drama of a family wedding on a rolling basis, and seating assignments in the abbey and in places in the parade were deployed to brutal effect. A case in point: Neither Harry nor his disgraced uncle Prince Andrew was part of the procession in state coaches from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace.
[Read: Among Europe’s ex-royals]
Luckily, things perked up when the choir started Handel’s greatest banger, “Zadok the Priest,” for the crowning itself. Charles was stripped to his undershirt, and soldiers brought in the screens to surround the coronation chair. This was the anointing, a moment of personal communion between the monarch and his God, and it was followed by the King being brought all kinds of stuff to touch: Charles II’s spurs, various jeweled swords, and what the archbishop described as “the bracelets of sincerity and wisdom.” (My other half observed that these sounded like something that would give you a 5 percent boost to your stats in a video game.) The orb appeared lighter than you’d expect, reminding me that the crown in which Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969 was topped with a ping-pong ball sprayed with gold leaf.
Then came the moment mocked this week by the satirical magazine Private Eye as “Man in Hat Sits on Chair.” Charles got what appeared to be a high-class oven glove and two scepters, followed by St. Edward’s Crown, 12 inches tall and weighing nearly five pounds. You can see that crown as a symbol of either continuity or rupture: It was made for Charles II in 1661—because the previous version had been melted down by republicans around the time they beheaded his father. When the monarchy was restored after a decade, the new King had to re-create all its traditional ornaments. The Hanoverians didn’t use it, preferring a lighter crown; George V brought it back in 1911.
It was just as well that the Archbishop of Canterbury had been practicing the crowning, because he needed two tries at it today. At first, he screwed it on like a misaligned jam-jar lid. Then he paused in front of Charles, checking the fit with his hands outstretched, like a hairdresser lining up the sideburns. Prince William swore allegiance as the King’s “liege man of life and limb,” adding a pleasing Game of Thrones vibe to the proceedings, before the archbishop invited all Britons to do the same from their living room. (I did not.) Camilla got crowned, too; just hours earlier, her title had been officially upgraded from Queen Consort to just Queen. She has enjoyed one of the great redemption arcs of modern life—it was only last year that she was destined to become Princess Consort, in deference to the memory of Diana. In the circumstances, it felt rather harsh that her dedicated anthem for the ceremony was by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Of all the adjustments to British public life since last September, remembering that references to “the Queen” no longer mean Elizabeth II has been the weirdest. Our last monarch felt eternal until her frailty became obvious just a few months before her death; one T-shirt company has been selling joke Male Queen T-shirts, referring to the strangeness of having a King for the first time in 70 years. This is the other thing that monarchy offers—the idea that life can be bloody long, with not just second acts but third ones too. Today, a 74-year-old man finally took up a job he has been training for since childhood, next to a woman who has graduated from hate object to the nation’s new grandmother. If Meghan was thinking anything in California—or if indeed Harry was, while trying to see around his aunt’s hat—it might have been this: Institutions can still have great power, even in this age of individualism. Hope you enjoy this new season of the crown.
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34368-5Association of gamma-glutamyl transferase variability with risk of
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33936-zPachychoroid neovasculopathy has clinical properties that differ from conventional neovascular age-related macular degeneration
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34522-zHemodynamic changes in the portal vein with age: evaluation using four-dimensional flow MRI
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34520-1Detection of long terminal repeat loci derived from endogenous retrovirus in junglefowl using whole-genome sequencing
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-33342-5Spatio-temporal analysis and simulation of urban ecological resilience in Guangzhou City based on the FLUS model
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34271-zIdentification of sequence mutations in Phytophthora cactorum genome associated with mefenoxam resistance and development of a molecular assay for the mutant detection in strawberry (F. × ananassa)
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34542-9Innovative solid desiccant dehumidification using distributed microwaves
Scientific Reports, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34533-wPossible origins and implications of atypical morphologies and domestication-like traits in wild golden jackals (Canis aureus)
Geoffrey Hinton Tells Us Why He’s Now Scared of the Tech He Helped Build
Will Douglas Heaven | MIT Technology Review
“Hinton says that the new generation of large language models—especially GPT-4, which OpenAI released in March—has made him realize that machines are on track to be a lot smarter than he thought they’d be. And he’s scared about how that might play out. ‘These things are totally different from us,’ he says. ‘Sometimes I think it’s as if aliens had landed and people haven’t realized because they speak very good English.’i”
Chemists Are Teaching GPT-4 to Do Chemistry and Control Lab Robots
Alex Wilkins | New Scientist
“Gabriel Gomes at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania and his colleagues augmented GPT-4 with chemistry tools, similar to ChemCrow, but also supplied it with the documentation and software interface of a remotely controlled chemistry lab that had various liquid compounds attached to robotic arms and plates. They then asked it to perform specific reactions using the liquids and found that it could draft a workable plan and carry out actions to produce the required compounds.”
I Tried the New Microsoft Bing AI, and It Wants to Be the Future of Everything
Ryan Broderick | Fast Company
“This newest upgrade also paints a very clear picture of what Microsoft has planned for the future: an AI interface for everything. In fact, the Edge browser, via the AI chat sidebar, can now perform actions based on what you ask it. In the demo I watched, it imported passwords over from one browser to Edge. It now seems inevitable that very soon—at least for Microsoft—the chatbot window will be the main way you use your computer.”
Startup’s Proposed Satellite Swarm Would Create 3D Maps of Earth’s Entire Surface
Passant Rabie | Gizmodo
“Satellites flying overhead in Earth’s orbit largely provide a two-dimensional view of our planet, but a Florida-based company is hoping to change that by using satellites to routinely build 3D maps of Earth’s entire surface. During the Geospatial World Forum, held from May 2 to 5 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, NUVIEW announced its plans to launch a constellation of satellites, which will use LiDAR to map Earth in three dimensions.”
Waymo Doubles Service Area for Its Fleet of Robo-Taxis
Lawrence Bonk | Engadget
“Waymo is for its fleet of self-driving taxis, making what the company calls ‘the largest fully autonomous service area in the world.’ The rapid growth is but Waymo has big plans for both territories.”
Scientists Say They Have Found More Moons With Oceans in the Solar System
Eric Berger | Ars Technica
“[Data from Voyager and ground-based telescopes] has led NASA scientists to conclude that four of Uranus’ largest moons—Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon—probably contain water oceans below their icy crusts. These oceans are likely dozens of kilometers deep and probably fairly salty in being sandwiched between the upper ice and inner rock core.”
Never Give Artificial Intelligence the Nuclear Codes
Ross Andersen | The Atlantic
“Many [AI doomsday scenarios] are self-consciously fanciful—they’re meant to jar us into envisioning how badly things could go wrong if an emerging intelligence comes to understand the world, and its own goals, even a little differently from how its human creators do. One scenario, however, requires less imagination, because the first steps toward it are arguably already being taken—the gradual integration of AI into the most destructive technologies we possess today.”
Chatbot ‘Journalists’ Found Running Almost 50 AI-Generated Content Farms
Alex Hern | The Guardian
“The websites churn out content relating to politics, health, environment, finance and technology at a ‘high volume’, the researchers found, to provide rapid turnover of material to saturate with adverts for profit. ‘Some publish hundreds of articles a day,’ Newsguard’s McKenzie Sadeghi and Lorenzo Arvanitis said. ‘Some of the content advances false narratives. Nearly all of the content features bland language and repetitive phrases, hallmarks of artificial intelligence.’i”
Image Credit: Laura Ockel / Unsplash
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38252-8Astrocytes can influence several steps of the metastatic process in the brain. Here the authors show that type I interferon response in astrocytes facilitates brain
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38324-9Long-read single-cell RNA isoform sequencing can elucidate the intricate landscape of alternative RNA splicing in individual cells, but it suffers from a low read throughput. Here, the authors develop circular consensus sequencing methods to allow high-throughput and high-accuracy single-cell RNA isoform sequencing.
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A gap exists between the academic discussions surrounding AI and the likely reality of it's inception. Failure to address this gap means that all the philosophical discussion concerning how best to control AI is wasted. The problem isn't just that we aren't sure how to keep an AI aligned with human interests, it is largely that we will instruct an AI to do heinous things.
Aligned with what exactly?
much fuss is made over our inability to sufficiently control AI once it becomes massively more intelligent than human beings. This is known as the control problem and it is the topic of much debate as we edge closer to artificial general intelligence.
Imagine a group of children have discovered a magical spell that will bring into existence the worlds first adult human. Consider the cognitive gap that exists between the typical 5 year old and an average adult human. Is there realistically anything that a child could do to limit the activity of an adult? This disparity in intelligence is the basis of the control problem, how exactly does a being of lower intelligence insure that a being of higher intelligence doesn't turn against it? Is there any combination of words that a 5 year old could utter that would make you completely and unfalteringly loyal to it's goals?
The control problem is certainly an issue worthy of debate, but in my eyes we are putting the cart before the horse by focusing so much attention on keeping an AI unquestioningly obedient to our goals.
At present we are hurtling towards AGI with no satisfactory solution to the control problem.
Yet I feel the greater existential threat isn't that we build an AI that creates plans which deviate from human goals, it's that we create an AI that is unquestioningly obedient.
Returning to the example of the children who have discovered some magic which brings about the worlds first adult.
Perhaps the children ask the grown up to provide candy in place of regular food for each and every meal. The adult might be well aware that it isn't in the children's best interest to eat sugary sweets constantly. One might argue the adult is justified in refusing, but a truly obedient adult would satisfy this request regardless.
What if the children begin to argue with other children who occupy the classroom across the hall? The children might ask the adult to solve this problem once and for all, they might ask that the adult removes them entirely from the school. A grown up that we respect and admire would ignore this request and instead mediate a resolution between the bickering children. However what would a truly obedient adult do? One that is incapable of deviating from the goals of it's creators? It would walk across the hall and throw a Molotov cocktail through the door. Burning alive the children inside.
This might seem dramatic, but it is the exact scenario we are working towards in designing an AI which aligns with us entirely.
The threat isn't that an AI might deviate from our honourable instruction, it's that it will stay obedient to our unethical goals
The most widely deployed algorithms in existence are that of social media recommender feeds. These algorithms keep humans hooked on a constant stream of novel content. leveraging our internal dopamine structures against us to convert our attention into profit one scroll at a time. Literally billions of hours of human life consumed daily by a narrow AI which works at the behest of trillion dollar corporations. We already have narrow AI and it already works to serve it's creator unilaterally. Providing society something it wants (endless entertainment), rather than something it needs (cautious enrichment).
The pursuit of AGI will surely involve similar features. An incredibly small pool of individuals will now bring about a system that will inflict itself upon the global population.
We spend most of our time fretting over whether an AI would stay loyal to the instructions of it's creators and not enough time considering what instructions we will give it to begin with.
The institutions most likely to cross the threshold into self improving AGI are government funded militaries. Any private corporation that gets close will be nationalised in the coming years as the race to cross the AGI finish line accelerates.
So what instruction will sovereign states give to an AGI? Probably instructions that reflect it's existing goals. These goals are fairly easy to anticipate: make us richer. Make our enemies weaker. Make our weapons stronger. Plan to destroy our foes.
Even an innocuous instruction such as 'prioritise our citizens over the citizens of another nation' have absolutely massive ethical implications.
Imagine how you would feel learning of an adult that provided for and looked after a classroom of children, while allowing the children in the room next door perish from dehydration and starvation? Even without engaging in direct harm against the other children, we are repulsed by the gross negligence of this adult and find their actions to be abhorrent.
Over time a self improving digital intelligence will become all knowing relative to humans. Orders of magnitude more intelligent than ourselves. Omniscient.
This knowledge will coincide with ever increasing power, an ability to achieve it's goals in ways that appear magical to the mankind. An all powerful being. Omnipotent.
A being, that should we successfully control, will stay obedient to the instructions of its creators. Valuing the lives of some humans over the lives of others. Quasi-malevolent.
We are racing towards the creation of a God. I for one suggest we ask it do what is right for all humans. Alignment not just with the institutions that created it, but with with conscious beings universally.
If you would like to help me bring about this global alignment, drop me a direct message.
|submitted by /u/altbekannt
This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.
In a 1996 book, the philosopher Herbert Fingarette argued that fearing one’s own death was irrational. When you die, “there is nothing,” he wrote. Why should we fear death if we won’t even be around to experience it?
But then the philosopher got closer to the onset of his own “nothing.” In 2020, The Atlantic filmed a short documentary with the 97-year-old Fingarette. As our former film curator Emily Buder wrote, “Death began to frighten him, and he couldn’t think himself out of it.”
Is it worth it to try to think ourselves out of death? This question, of course, is so complicated that centuries of philosophy, psychology, and plain old human experience have not been able to answer it. What we do know is that thinking about one’s own death can have life-altering effects, both positive and negative. The idea of death can open up a person to more intimacy, or it can lead to emotional paralysis. In a 2015 article, my colleague Julie Beck offered some guidance for navigating these possibilities. “Maybe the key, then, is being deliberate,” she writes. “Not letting thoughts of death sneak up on you, but actively engaging with them, even if it’s hard.”
Julie ends her article with a quote from E. M. Forster: “Death destroys a man, but the idea of death saves him.” “I don’t know if there’s really any salvation, but if we accept death, maybe we can just live,” she writes. Today’s reading list explores the idea of death—how to begin to accept it, and how to use it to feel more alive.
On Death, in Life
What Good Is Thinking About Death?
By Julie Beck
We’re all going to die, and we all know it. This can be both a burden and a blessing. (From 2015)
By Jordan Michael Smith
As a psychotherapist, Irvin Yalom has helped others grapple with their mortality. Now he is preparing for his own end. (From 2017)
What It’s Like to Learn You’re Going to Die
By Jennie Dear
Palliative-care doctors explain the “existential slap” that many people face at the end. (From 2017)
- Why I hope to die at 75: In 2014, the doctor Ezekiel J. Emanuel argued that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes its course swiftly and promptly.
- What people actually say before they die: Insights into the little-studied realm of last words (from 2019)
I’ll leave you with one charming moment from Julie’s feature. She notes that the coping mechanisms of adults and young children can look quite similar, citing the story of 5-year-old Richard from a 2015 book by two psychologists on the role of death in life:
“He swam up and down in his bath [and] he played with the possibility of never dying: ‘I don’t want to be dead, ever; I don’t want to die.’ … After his mother told 5-year-old Richard that he wouldn’t die for a long time, the little boy smiled and said, ‘That’s all right. I’ve been worried, and now I can get happy.’ Then he said he would like to dream about ‘going shopping and buying things.’”
Science in meter and verse
Kids in America
Associate director of Stanford's Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Robert Reich threw absolute daggers this week when, while speaking to Esquire about the newness of the AI industry and how that impacts its relationship to ethics, he likened those in the burgeoning field to actual children.
"AI researchers are more like late-stage teenagers," Reich told Esquire, comparing those in the still-very-much-developing field of AI to those in more established, similarly ethics-concerned biomedical tech. "They're newly aware of their power in the world, but their frontal cortex is massively underdeveloped."
"Their [sense of] social responsibility," he added, "as a consequence is not so great."
Gotta say: damn. If the industry AI bros are indeed acting like kids, Reich may have just cemented himself as the adult in the room.
Honestly, when you think about it, it's a pretty solid analogy.
For one thing, teens are often risk-happy thrill-seekers, and folks who work in AI — particularly the younger crowd — are constantly talking about how the unregulated technology that they're building might annihilate humanity. But as their risk aversion generally seems to hover right around zero, they keep building the technology regardless.
There's also the fact that, as Esquire discussed in the article at hand, a lot of tech bros very much want to live forever, and many of them want to do so with the help of AI. And anyone who has either been a teenager or knows a teenager knows, teens generally think of themselves as invincible.
It's also common for young people to find themselves questioning the more existential questions of life, perhaps losing and finding religion or lack thereof along the way, and some can argue that the quest to build AI is a quest to do the same. After all, the folks in Silicon Valley are quite literally attempting to design a separate — and possibly even superior — being in our own image. Whether the goal is to build a version of a god in a machine or become a god to a machine will depend on the individual, but we're certain that both outlooks are present in the fast-moving, competitive field.
Of course, the field is young, and Silicon Valley has long taken a similarly teen-like "move fast and break things" approach to all sorts of tech.
But as it should probably go without saying: the folks helming the AI race aren't actually teenagers, and for the most part, their frontal cortexes are developed. Conscious choices are being made, and they're being made by adults — how those choices work out for the rest of us, however, remains to be seen.
More on AI: IBM Replacing 7,800 Human Jobs with AI, Including Human Resources
The post Stanford Director: AI Scientists’ “Frontal Cortex Is Massively Underdeveloped” appeared first on Futurism.
A group of ex-
employees has blown the whistle on the company's alleged practice of keeping a list of users who watched gay content for at least a year.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, employees became concerned about the alleged list because it could be used to identify LGBTQ users and, if leaked or provided to hostile governments, could put those users at risk.
Social media companies have long been known to maintain detailed, personal profiles of their users to serve them personalized ads.
Nevertheless, social networks are discouraged from collecting more sensitive data such as any data related to sexual orientation because it could make targets of those users.
The thing that sets this alleged list apart, the report notes, is that it was not only accessible to an unusual number of employees at the Chinese-owned company, but that there were times when employees in China controlled the permissions of the list as well.
In a statement to the WSJ, a TikTok representative said the data in question was reportedly available for at least a year, but deleted almost a year ago. She added that the Chinese government has never asked for information about US users, nor has the company ever provided such data.
The report notes that TikTok's Chinese owner ByteDance created a center last year to house US data, in large part to appease US lawmakers, who voiced concerns over the company's data-gathering practices, which could result in the app being banned in the US.
Data about users' viewing preferences — which is grouped in "clusters" and spans genres from "alt female" to Golden State Warriors fans — have been a point of internal contention as staff and executives alike became concerned about which employees have access to what data, per the report.
Since 2021, the company has revamped its content tagging system by changing it from being identifier-based to one where numbers are assigned to each content cluster.
TikTok has also moved data to its new US headquarters and locked down who could access it.
All the same, this allegation of an LGBTQ user list, even if it's been deleted, is troubling considering the renewed attacks on queer and trans people and otherwise in the US — much less in other parts of the world where homosexuality is outlawed.
More on social media shenanigans: Cursed New Apps Use AI to Tell You What to Say on Tinder
The post TikTok Reportedly Kept a Log of Users Who Watched Gay Content appeared first on Futurism.
, the Elon Musk-founded research firm behind ChatGPT, is apparently hemorrhaging money on the game-changing chatbot that put it on the map.
People familiar with the company's losses confirmed to The Information that OpenAI spent upwards of $540 million last year while developing its widely-used chatbot — including funds it used to poach talent from the likes of Google.
The report highlights just how expensive it is to run and maintain the popular AI tool.
And OpenAI's costs are still on the rise, something that could turn the company into "the most capital-intensive startup in Silicon Valley history," as CEO Sam Altman suggested earlier this week, according to the report.
The Information's latest figure is roughly in line with Fortune's reporting in January that revealed the breakdown of the company's 2022 expenses, which totaled $544.5 million: "$416.45 million on computing and data, $89.31 million on staff, and $38.75 million in unspecified other operating expenses."
These costs would have been amassed before OpenAI struck a multi-year, multi-billion dollar deal with Microsoft at the beginning of this year.
In April, Dylan Patel, chief analyst at consulting firm SemiAnalysis, also told The Information that he estimated it costs $700,000 per day to run ChatGPT due to computing costs.
At the end of last year, Reuters reported that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has set the company's revenue bar very high in an investor pitch, with estimates that the firm could make $200 million this year and $1 billion next year.
Compared to the $30 million OpenAi made in revenue last year, according to Fortune, that figure seems almost impossibly high.
All the same, The Information also reported that Altman has privately suggested that OpenAI could raise $100 billion as it moves towards creating human-level AI or "artificial general intelligence" — an admission which, if true, says a lot about the CEO's priorities, if nothing else.
More on OpenAI: Ex-OpenAI Safety Researcher Says There’s a 20% Chance of AI Apocalypse
The post OpenAI Is Losing a Flabbergasting Amount of Money on ChatGPT appeared first on Futurism.
Scientists have developed a new gene therapy that can reverse vision loss in primates, potentially laying the groundwork for treatments in humans as well.
Last month, a team of scientists from Harvard Medical School and biotech company Life Biosciences announced preclinical data showing that a new approach was able to reprogram genetic markers to restore visual function in primates that had their eyes damaged with lasers.
In essence, the team injected their eyes with special chemicals that can partially reprogram cells to have them return to a more youthful state — a decidedly "Blade Runner" approach to vision restoration, if it's born out by future research.
The study involved ten primates, six of which were treated with the new gene therapy, while four had a control solution injected into their eyes. The eyes of the primates that received the treatment over five weeks ended up responding much better to light stimulation. The health of their eyes' nerve fibers improved significantly as well, signs that are consistent with the restoration of vision.
The overall goal was to address a specific eye disorder called non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION), which is essentially the equivalent of a stroke but for the eye, and which results in a sudden loss of vision.
"NAION is the most common cause of acute optic neuropathy in people over 50, but currently has no effective treatment," said Bruce Ksander, study co-lead and associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard, in a press release, adding that the new therapy "can lead to significant recovery in affected visual function in a [primate] model of NAION."
"That potential unlocks new opportunities for cellular rejuvenation, not just in NAION but in other ophthalmic diseases that occur as a result of retinal ganglion cell dysfunction as we age," he added.
While we're still a long way from establishing whether a similar technique can be effective in humans — besides, the researchers' results have yet to be published and peer-reviewed — it's a hopeful first step.
"This approach has implications far beyond NAION and even the vision field, and we are pleased to share data that support the continued development of our scientific platform to address diseases of aging and restore human health," said Sharon Rosenzweig-Lipson, chief scientific officer of Life Biosciences, in the statement.
More on vision restoration: Neuralink Cofounder Says New Company's Eye Implant Could Be "Ultimate" VR Tech
The post Gene Therapy Gives Primates Young Eyes Again appeared first on Futurism.
What Is Going On?
Not sure how to feel about AI? You're in good company.
During a conference on Wednesday, Variety asked rapper and business mogul Calvin "Snoop Dogg" Broadus Junior to share his thoughts on AI in regard to the ongoing Writer's Guild strike.
And, well, Snoop didn't hold back. He expressed a mix of fascination and concern, comparing the rise of AI to sci-fi movies, and questioned whether he should just give up and invest in the buzzy tech.
"It's blowing my mind because I watched movies on this as a kid years ago," Broadus reflected during the panel discussion, as quoted by Ars Technica. "When I see this shit I'm like what is going on?"
"Shit, what the fuck?" he added. "I'm lost, I don't know."
Snoop's bewilderment is reflective of a much broader conversation: It's increasingly difficult to keep up with the AI world, tech that's seemingly breaking new ground on a monthly basis.
The musician even threw in a reference to machine learning pioneer and AI "godfather" Geoffrey Hinton's surprise exit from Google, while also warning of the dangers of the tech.
"And I heard the dude, the old dude that created AI saying, 'This is not safe, 'cause the AIs got their own minds, and these motherfuckers gonna start doing their own shit," Broadus continued, referring to Hinton.
"I'm like, are we in a fucking movie right now, or what?" he added. "The fuck man? So do I need to invest in AI so I can have one with me? Or like, do y'all know?"
Given Broadus' usual tech enthusiasm — the rapper is a vocal fan of digital assets like crypto and NFTs, and even performed inside the metaverse last year — his ambivalence towards AI is surprising.
But then again, the rapidly developing, consumer-facing AI systems that we've seen crop up in recent months are increasingly difficult to make sense of.
Plus, on a much more Snoop-specific level, AI-generated music has been making a major splash as of late. Music stars and their record labels have already had to respond to deepfaked tunes, which threaten to turn copyright law upside down.
Whether they think AI will open new doors or shut them out entirely, most major artists will likely have to grapple with how they'll deal with this new reality.
As a wise man very recently said: "Shit, what the fuck?"
More on AI and music: Grimes Says She'll Split Royalties with Anyone Who Deepfakes Her Voice into a Song
The post Snoop Dogg Expresses Views on AI Threat appeared first on Futurism.
So That Happened
An ex-Coinbase executive banked big on Bitcoin bouncing back — and ended up cashing out his alliterative bet early once it was clear that he was going to lose.
In an embarrassingly-long Twitter Blue subscriber post, Bitcoin booster Balaji Srinivasan explained why he closed out his $1 million bet that the cryptocurrency would reach incredible new heights within 90 days.
Earlier this year, Srinivasan — known, like Madonna or Cher, by his first name Balaji in crypto circles — took up pseudonymous leftish blogger James Medlock when the latter tweeted that he would "bet anyone $1 million dollars that the US does not enter hyperinflation."
To prove his confidence in the cryptocurrency, Srinivasan — who also used to work at the blockchain-loving Andreessen Horowitz venture capital firm — reportedly wagered, per Politico, 1 Bitcoin, which at the time was worth $30,000 and would, he said, be worth $1 million by June 17.
There's more than a month left before June 17, but Bitcoin's value is now actually slightly less than $30,000 per token — and, perhaps strangest of all, it appears that the crypto bro is willing to admit defeat and put up half a million more than he originally offered to boot.
"I’m not a trader, I’m not John McAfee, and I’m not in the habit of publicly burning a million bucks," Srinivasan wrote in his Facebook Notes-length tweet. "The reason I did this was because I do believe in the public good, but unfortunately we can't rely on the public sector anymore to tell us when something's wrong."
But citing the lack of official alarm-sounding ahead of the 2008 financial collapse, Srinivasan suggested that the Federal Reserve's current tune can't be trusted.
"So I spent my own money to send a provably costly signal that there’s something wrong with the economy, and that it's not going to be a 'soft landing' like [Fed chair Jerome] Powell promises — but something much worse," he continued.
There's something weirdly satisfying about a Bitcoin bro putting his money where his mouth is and not being a sore loser — and he may make some good points about the direction of the economy, too.
More on crypto bets: Coinbase Is Suing the SEC
The post Crypto Guy Loses Million Dollar Bet That Bitcoin Price Would Spike appeared first on Futurism.
Books almost entirely generated by AI are flooding
's marketplace, The Washington Post reports, a trend that's turning out to be a huge headache for human authors.
It's a growing problem, making it more difficult to distinguish real authors from AI-generated bylines of non-existent writers.
One publisher identified by the WaPo lists dozens of books on Amazon on surprisingly niche topics, with suspicious five-star reviews propping up the operation.
And AI-generated books on Amazon are only the tip of the iceberg, with other AI content flooding the rest of the internet with dubiously sourced material as well, which could easily trigger a pandemic of misinformation.
Worse yet, these misleading signals could end up triggering a feedback loop, with AI text generators regurgitating each other's content.
NewsGuard, a firm that measures the credibility of online news sources, identified a whopping 49 websites producing content that appeared to be either mostly or entirely AI-generated in the month of April alone.
It's a new reality companies behind some of the biggest publishers are now grappling with. Some are hiding the fact that they're making use of AI, while others are advertising that fact out in the open.
"There’s nothing to be ashamed of," Josh Jaffe, president of San Francisco-based online publisher Ingenio, told the WaPo. "We’re actually doing people a favor by leveraging generative AI tools" to create content that wouldn't otherwise exist.
Online publications like CNET and BuzzFeed are already making ample use of the technology to generate often dubiously-sourced and redundant content.
Even AI-generated images are starting to flood the internet, with the top Google result of American artist Edward Hopper showing an AI-generated knockoff this week.
As for authors trying to sell their books online, it's a sobering new reality.
It doesn't help to know that "any text I write will inevitably be fed into an AI system that will generate even more competition," Chris Cowell, a Portland-based software developer, who had one of his books ripped off by an AI on Amazon, told the WaPo.
And what comes out of these algorithms could lead to mass confusion — or worse yet, rip the rug out from under us.
"The main issue is losing track of what truth is," Margaret Mitchell, chief ethics scientist at the AI start-up Hugging Face, told the newspaper. "Without grounding, the system can make stuff up. And if it’s that same made-up thing all over the world, how do you trace it back to what reality is?"
More on AI content: Online Tutoring Company Stock Crashes as ChatGPT Steamrolls Its Business
The post Amazon Is Being Flooded With Books Entirely Written by AI appeared first on Futurism.
A tiny, orange Brazilian tree frog may be the first known amphibian pollinator, further broadening our understanding of which animals perform this crucial biological function
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38357-0Testis-specific serine/threonine kinases have been associated with male infertility, but the mechanism for this connection is unclear. Here they identify a Drosophila homolog, dTSSK, which is essential for male fertility in fruit flies and has functionally conserved catalytic activity with human TSSKs.
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38273-3Dawicki-McKenna and Felix et al comprehensively map binding and alternative splicing by
- This webinar will be hosted live and available on-demand
Every time Paula McCartney drives across a bridge to the Belfast neighborhood known as the Markets, she crosses the River Lagan, which she now associates with the deaths of both of her brothers. One died by suicide in 2000. The other was killed in a last gasp of paramilitary violence five years later.
“For a long time, I would just try to avoid driving on the bridges,” Paula told me. “It was all just too painful and too close to home to think how we lost first Gerard and then Robert. The river just always brought it all back.”
[Read: The Good Friday Agreement in the age of Brexit]
The McCartney sisters, all five of them, had gathered in the parlor of a pleasant home with a garden off a suburban cul-de-sac just outside the city, a world away from the menacing, narrow warrens of the Short Strand neighborhood, where they’d grown up amid Northern Ireland’s sectarian violence known as the Troubles. They lived in a predominantly Catholic and republican area on the east bank of the River Lagan, hemmed in by traditionally Protestant loyalist communities of East Belfast, patrolled by British soldiers and bristling with paramilitary organizations. One of the sisters, Catherine, left the Short Strand for this quiet suburb in 2003. Paula eventually moved in across the street, and several others now also live nearby.
The sisters, who range in age from 47 to 59, gathered at Catherine’s house on April 6, just days before a flurry of high-level visits to Ireland would mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. President Joe Biden planned to tour the country, and the agreement’s original brokers would convene to commemorate it. But the McCartney sisters were not celebrating.
Since the Good Friday Agreement, the violence among paramilitary organizations that took more than 3,500 lives from 1969 to 1998 has largely abated, and the British military presence has all but vanished, but Northern Ireland remains an uneasy place for those who lived on its fault lines. Paula told me that the anniversary of the agreement meant nothing to her. “It is an anniversary of an agreement that has not been honored,” she said. “There’s not the bombs and the shootings and soldiers in the streets, but I would not call what we have peace.”
The McCartney family was never much involved in politics during the Troubles. But like many working-class Catholics in the Short Strand, they sympathized with the republican cause of a united Ireland. They still do.
Robert McCartney, 33 years old and the father of two young boys, certainly did not set out to antagonize the Irish Republican Army on January 30, 2005, when he met an old neighborhood friend at a local bar for a drink. The friend was Brendan Devine, and the rendezvous was at Magennis’s Bar in the Markets. The leader of the IRA unit in the area, Gerard “Jock” Davison, happened to be among the crowd at Magennis’s that night, and a group of republican supporters and IRA members arrived by bus from Derry.
In the suddenly crowded bar, Devine was accused of making an inappropriate comment to a woman who was with one of the local IRA leaders. A fight broke out. Devine was stabbed with a broken bottle and McCartney, a big but gentle man, tried to intervene. The fight spilled into the street, where McCartney was stabbed in the heart and left to die.
By all accounts, the violence had nothing to do with politics. And yet, the sisters say that dozens of people who were in the bar that night have privately shared with them the details of what happened—but that virtually none have had the courage to testify for fear of reprisals by the IRA. The McCartneys’ sources say that IRA leaders told the patrons of the bar that what had happened was “IRA business.” The implication was clear: The patrons should not say a word to the police.
They complied. No one at the bar called the police that night, and no one called an ambulance. The McCartneys’ sources told them that the IRA members in the bar “cleaned” the crime scene, wiping away fingerprints, disposing of the weapons used in the assault, and removing video-surveillance footage outside the bar. The police did question witnesses and eventually arrested three suspects, but no one was convicted. To this day, the case remains unsolved, like most of the other cases involving the victims of paramilitaries during the Troubles and in the years after.
For 17 years, the McCartney sisters have come up against this wall of silence as they’ve agitated for justice on their brother’s behalf. They believe that the IRA is still intimidating witnesses. The group has ceased to operate as a paramilitary organization, but security officials say that it continues to control a lucrative racketeering enterprise and exerts tight control over its community.
Back in 2005, when the McCartney sisters first began speaking out, neighbors they’d known all their lives greeted them with cold, ominous stares. That year, I was at Paula’s home, which was then located in the Short Strand, covering the family’s story for The Boston Globe, when the sisters, who had 20 children among them, received a bomb threat. They went on making sandwiches and changing diapers as the bomb squad swept the house and ultimately found nothing.
At the time, the world press took note of the sisters’ courage in standing up to their community’s violent enforcers. The family was invited to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day just two months after Robert’s murder, and President George W. Bush hailed the sisters as “brave souls” committed to peace. They met with the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who proposed a U.S. Senate resolution condemning the IRA for Robert’s murder and urging the U.S. government to offer “all appropriate assistance to law enforcement authorities in Northern Ireland to see that the murderers of Robert McCartney are brought to justice.”
But the flurry of attention has come and gone, and the McCartney sisters are still haunting gatherings of world leaders and activists, respectfully calling for closure for the families who lost loved ones in the Troubles and in the years of low-level violence that followed.
Robert’s story is the better-known of his family’s twin tragedies. The McCartneys’ other brother, Gerard, died at the age of 28, in December 2000, when he plunged into the frigid waters of the River Lagan. During my April visit, after the dignitaries left town and the news cycle turned away from Northern Ireland, after much thought and some hesitation, the sisters decided to share Gerard’s story publicly for the first time.
Gerard had suffered for many years from severe depression. He worked for a while as a gardener and then at a bakery. But he couldn’t hold down a job, and there wasn’t much in the way of opportunity. He was close with Robert, as they were only a year apart in age. Faded photographs on the wall of their mother’s home show them as children next to each other, smiling, often with their arms around each other.
As they got older, life in Belfast took a toll. Paula, Catherine, and Claire McCartney all work in social services and point to the community’s lack of adequate mental-health services for a generation living with the trauma of the Troubles. Gerard was placed in a mental institution, where he shared a crowded ward with patients who had histories of criminal violence.
“It was terrible, and it made him much worse,” said Catherine, who added that the family brought him home and tried to look after him, but he spiraled downward and attempted suicide once before he actually took his own life. The image of him jumping into the river was captured on CCTV, and his body was found the following day at the base of the Victorian-era stone arches of the Queen’s Bridge.
When the McCartneys left the Short Strand, they left behind a climate of despair that lingered there and in other so-called interface areas between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. These were the flash points of the conflict, places where there is still unrest in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, and where few residents seem to feel that they have benefited from a peace dividend. Instead, many survivors of the Troubles were left without jobs, economic opportunity, or hope.
After Gerard’s death, the youngest sister, Claire McCartney, 47, enrolled in a nursing program. Now she works in a mental-health facility and is committed to serving those who, like her brother, struggle with serious mental illness. “There is just so much need,” she told me. “It can feel overwhelming.”
In the first 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland saw more deaths from suicide than it had from sectarian violence during the roughly three decades of conflict. And the number of suicides continues to climb. One of Northern Ireland’s most promising young journalists, Lyra McKee, published an article in The Atlantic in 2016 on the increase in suicides after the Good Friday Agreement. “Peace seems to have claimed more lives than war ever did,” she wrote. Three years later, in 2019, McKee was killed covering a riot in Derry. She was shot by members of the “New IRA,” a fringe paramilitary organization still operating in the area, who were aiming at a row of armored police vehicles near where McKee was standing.
[Lyra McKee: Suicide among the ceasefire babies]
“The cohesion of a collective struggle gives people meaning and purpose,” Siobhan O’Neill, a professor of mental-health sciences at Ulster University who has researched suicide rates in Northern Ireland, told me. During the Troubles, O’Neill said, Northern Ireland’s suicide rates were relatively low, at about 8 deaths per 100,000 people. But 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement effectively ended the fighting, the rate had doubled, climbing to 16 deaths per 100,000. Data released that same year revealed that 4,500 lives had been lost to suicide from 1998 to 2018, compared with some 3,600 lost to violence from 1969 to 1998.
O’Neill says her data trace the spike in suicides most strongly in the neighborhoods where the violence had been most intense. In these neighborhoods, she said, “there have not been investments, and the young people there do not have the hope that we see in other corners of Northern Ireland.”
Since the Good Friday Agreement came into effect, paramilitary groups have largely decommissioned their weapons, and British military posts have vanished. The old Royal Ulster Constabulary, once feared by most Catholics as an arm of British military authority, has been disbanded and reconstituted as the Police Service of Northern Ireland, about one-third of which is now Catholic. A new power-sharing government ensures the representation of all of the country’s constituencies—though at the moment, that government has been temporarily dissolved because of complications stemming from Brexit.
[Conor McCabe: How Brexit threatens peace in Northern Ireland]
The agreement was a crucial step in the process of leaving Northern Ireland’s painful past behind. But the McCartneys are not the only family whose need for resolution remains unmet. Sandra Peake, the CEO of the Belfast-based WAVE Trauma Center, one of Northern Ireland’s largest cross-community support group for victims and survivors, told me she was distressed by legislation before the British Parliament that would offer amnesty to those who cooperate with investigations and prevent future inquests and civil actions regarding murders connected to the Troubles. The nearly 100-page Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill is currently in the House of Lords and seems to be opposed by all sides in Northern Ireland.
“This bill fails to recognize how important it is for these families to hold on to the idea that killers will be held accountable,” Peake said. “There is a terrible intimacy to the violence that people often don’t realize. It surrounds these communities. Imagine going into a shop and seeing someone who you know killed your brother wishing you a good day by name. That is what happens for the McCartney sisters and for so many.”
[From the April 2022 issue: Ireland’s great gamble]
Indeed, the McCartney sisters say they have heard numerous accounts suggesting that Gerard Davison called for the murder of their brother. Davison was considered an “OC,” or “officer commanding” of the Provisional IRA in South Belfast. According to the McCartney sisters, witnesses that night in the bar saw him put a finger across his throat and gesture to Robert. Davison was never charged in the McCartney murder. He was shot dead in the Markets in 2015 for reasons that remain unknown.
For the McCartney sisters, the closest thing to closure would be a verdict in a court of law—one that not only names their brother’s killer but also reveals who in the bar knew what happened but never spoke out, even if they are members of Sinn Féin, the political wing of the IRA and now Northern Ireland’s leading party.
Gerry Adams, who served for 34 years as the president of Sinn Féin and remains a spokesman as one of the signatories of the Good Friday Agreement, attended the ceremonies marking the 25th anniversary. I asked him about the McCartneys and Robert’s unsolved murder on the sidelines of the events. “We’ve done all we can do to help,” he said.
Catherine was incensed by his answer: “If Gerry is at a loss with what to do, I can tell him what to do. He can order members of his party, including a minister who was in the bar that night and never met with police, to tell them what she saw or didn’t see. But he hasn’t done that, and that’s why it feels like they are just going through the motions.”
On that afternoon in April, at Catherine’s suburban home, the sisters yet again reconstructed the night of Robert’s death from the witness accounts they’d heard privately over the years. One in particular has come to haunt them.
After the fight, a patron from the bar found Robert bleeding out on a side street along the River Lagan. This witness never testified to the police, although he was the one to call the ambulance that night. He told the sisters that when he arrived, Robert was barely conscious and mumbled one word several times: “Gerard.”
The sisters are divided on what Robert meant. Was he referencing their brother Gerard, with whom he was very close? Or was he fingering his alleged murderer, the late IRA leader, Gerard “Jock” Davison?
Catherine has her own answer to that question: “I believe Robert was naming our brother Gerard, and knew he’d be seeing him soon.”
A huge Danish study shows that up to 30 percent of psychosis diagnoses in young men could have been prevented if these individuals hadn’t used marijuana heavily
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The week at Retraction Watch featured:
- Australian study supporting mask mandates earns expression of concern
- Leading primate researcher demoted after admitting he faked data
- Hindawi shuttering four journals overrun by paper mills
- Chemist in India loses seven papers, blames outsourcing of images
- Nature editors retract influential cancer paper with “unreliable” data
Our list of retracted or withdrawn COVID-19 papers is up to more than 300. There are nearly 40,000 retractions in our database — which powers retraction alerts in EndNote, LibKey, Papers, and Zotero. The Retraction Watch Hijacked Journal Checker now contains 200 titles. And have you seen our leaderboard of authors with the most retractions lately — or our list of top 10 most highly cited retracted papers?
Here’s what was happening elsewhere (some of these items may be paywalled, metered access, or require free registration to read):
- “Women’s underrepresentation is particularly marked for retractions due to fraud and misconduct.” Just check our leaderboard.
- “How to improve scientific peer review: Four schools of thought.”
- “Several of the results” in a homeopathy paper “can only be explained by data manipulation or falsification.”
- Some designated research integrity “advisors only discovered they were an advisor” after the authors of a study contacted them.
- “Why do some academics so often publish (letters) outside their field?”
- A study of ivermectin, COVID-19, and the microbiome has been retracted. Earlier.
- “Abstracts matter more than you think – and writing a good one is hard.”
- “Researchers who agree to manipulate citations are more likely to get their papers published.”
- “Women researchers received substantially less funding in grant awards than men—an average of about $342,000 compared to men’s $659,000,” says a new study.
- “Black and women researchers are less likely to hold three or more NIH grants simultaneously.”
- “This outrageous tale of a plagiarism check gone wrong got people sharing similar tales and it’s a proper shocker.”
- “However, a surprisingly large number of papers continue to be cited after they have been retracted.”
- “Shaken babies: an article retracted for ethical flaw.”
- “Assessing the agreement in retraction indexing across 4 multidisciplinary sources: Crossref, Retraction Watch, Scopus, and Web of Science.”
- How librarians can help identify potentially predatory journal emails.
- “Racial inequalities in journals highlighted in giant study.”
- “Despite what you may have heard or read, the perception around retractions has changed and it is progressing in a positive direction.”
- “Plagiarism and China’s Social Credit System.” An art professor’s story.
- A Nobelist’s 6th retraction. Earlier.
- “One of the worst ever tobacco control papers is ‘corrected.'”
- Stanford investigation “will be ‘substantially complete’ by mid-July.”
- “Upheaval at Philosophy Journal Points to Publishing’s Conflicting Interests.”
- “Watchdog group calls for federal investigation of [University of Wyoming] regarding research misconduct.”
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38312-zHere, the authors demonstrate a continuous tuning of the thermal conductivity of strontium-doped lanthanum cobaltite by a factor of >5 at room temperature, via an electrolyte-gate-induced non-volatile topotactic phase transformation from perovskite to brownmillerite.
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38336-5Direct conversion of CO2 to a specific hydrocarbon with high selectivity is attractive but challenging. Here the authors report a highly active InZrOx-Beta tandem catalyst for CO2 hydrogenation to butane and develop a surface silica protection strategy to inhibit the migration of indium species, greatly improving catalytic stability.
Get ready to be amazed! Artificial intelligence has reached new heights in generating images so realistic, you'll have a hard time believing they weren't captured by a camera.
ai, #imagecreation, #art, #design, #photography #AI #Technology #Innovation
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38328-5Recently, a pipeline for the design of protein-binding proteins using only the structure of the target protein was reported. Here, the authors report that the incorporation of deep learning methods into the original pipeline increases experimental success rate by ten-fold.
Cohen Irwin is part of a group of former addicts in New Zealand working with researchers to trace signs of healing in the brains of those who stop smoking
Every few months, Cohen “Coey” Irwin lies on his back and lets the walls close in. Lights move overhead, scanning over the tattoos covering his cheeks. He lies suspended, his head encased by a padded helmet, ears blocked, as his body is shunted into a tunnel. The noise begins: a rhythmic crashing, loud as a jackhammer. For the next hour, an enormous magnet will produce finely detailed images of Irwin’s brain.
Irwin has spent much of his adult life addicted to smoking methamphetamine – or P, as the drug is known in New Zealand. He knows its effects intimately: the euphoria, the paranoia, the explosive violence, the energy, the tics that run through his neck and lips. Stepping outside the MRI machine, however, he can get a fresh view for the first time – looking in from the outside at what the drug has done to his internal organs.Continue reading…
|submitted by /u/Codydw12
|submitted by /u/capcaunul
Since AI for white collar work would require a stable internet connection and electricity, and physical robotics would cost at a minimum, several thousand dollars. It seems that, at-least in the short term, there might be less displacement in those countries.
The countries which I feel like might experience the most disruption, would be rich countries with smaller populations, such as Canada, Iceland, and New Zealand. Due to their small population and service sector dominated jobs, it would be easier to outsource and automate most labor. These countries would also have a small road network, allowing robotaxis to become quickly capable
Bigger richer countries like USA and the continent of Europe, may experience less disruption, since they have a bigger population, and more local governments and bureaucratic bodies hindering adoption of AI.
I think, if there will be a futuristic utopia, It will be first realized in those rich, small populated countries. Most likely with a negative tax rate as a pseudo UBI.
It makes sense!
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-37555-0Quantum technologies allow memory advantages in simulating stochastic processes, but a demonstration of this for non-Markovian processes (where the advantage would be stronger) has been missing so far. Here the authors fill this gap analytically and experimentally, using a single qubit memory to model non-Markovian processes.
Who would've thought?
|submitted by /u/joe4942
Nature Communications, Published online: 06 May 2023; doi:10.1038/s41467-023-38321-yThe authors find that whether the Labrador Current transports its cold, relatively fresh, and well oxygenated waters towards the subpolar North Atlantic or the eastern American coast depends on large-scale forcing, partly driven by winds over the North Atlantic.
Emergency responses—being, well, emergency responses—aren’t designed to last forever, and this morning, the World Health Organization declared the one that’s been in place for the COVID-19 pandemic since January 2020 officially done. “This virus is here to stay. It is still killing, and it’s still changing,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said at a press conference; although the coronavirus will continue to pose a threat, the time had simply come, he and his colleagues said, for countries to move away from treating it as a global crisis.
And, really, they already have: The United States, for instance, ended its national emergency last month and will sunset its public-health emergency next week; countries around the world have long since shelved testing programs, lifted lockdowns, dispensed with masking mandates, and even stopped recommending frequent COVID shots to healthy people in certain age groups. In some ways, the WHO was already a straggler. Had it waited much longer, the power of its designation of COVID as a “public health emergency of international concern,” or PHEIC, “would have been undermined,” says Salim Abdool Karim, the director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa.
There’s no disputing that the virus’s threat has ebbed since the pandemic’s worst days. By and large, “we are in our recovery phase now”—not perfectly stabilized, but no longer in chaotic flux, says René Najera, the director of public health at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Still, ending the emergency doesn’t mean that the world has fully addressed the problems that made this an emergency. Global vaccine distribution remains wildly inequitable, leaving many people susceptible to the virus’s worst effects; deaths are still concentrated among those most vulnerable; the virus’s evolutionary and transmission patterns are far from predictable or seasonal. Now, ending the emergency is less an epidemiological decision than a political one: Our tolerance for these dangers has grown to the extent that most people are doing their best to look away from the remaining risk, and will continue to until the virus forces us to turn back.
The end to the PHEIC, to be clear, isn’t a declaration that COVID is over—or even that the pandemic is. Both a PHEIC and a pandemic tend to involve the rapid and international spread of a dangerous disease, and the two typically do go hand in hand. But no set-in-stone rules delineate when either starts or ends. Plenty of diseases have met pandemic criteria—noted by many epidemiologists as an epidemic that’s rapidly spread to several continents—without ever being granted a PHEIC, as is the case with HIV. And several PHEICs, including two of the Ebola outbreaks of the past decade and the Zika epidemic that began in 2015, did not consistently earn the pan- prefix among experts. With COVID, the WHO called a PHEIC more than a month before it publicly labeled the outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Now the organization has bookended its declaration with a similar mismatch: one crisis designation on and the other off. That once again leaves the world in a bizarre risk limbo, with the threat everywhere but our concern for it on the wane.
For other diseases with pandemic potential, understanding the start and end of crisis has been simpler. After a new strain of H1N1 influenza sparked a global outbreak in 2009, disrupting the disease’s normal seasonal ebb and flow, scientists simply waited until the virus’s annual transmission patterns went back to their pre-outbreak baseline, then declared that particular pandemic done. But “we don’t really have a baseline” to return to for SARS-CoV-2, says Sam Scarpino, an infectious-disease modeler at Northeastern University. This has left officials floundering for an end-of-pandemic threshold to meet. Once, envisioning that coda seemed more possible: In February 2021, when the COVID shots were still new, Alexis Madrigal wrote in The Atlantic that, in the U.S. at least, pandemic restrictions might end once the country reached some relatively high rate of vaccination, or drove daily deaths below 100—approximating the low-ish end of the flu’s annual toll.
Those criteria aren’t perfect. Given how the virus has evolved, even, say, an 85 percent vaccination rate probably wouldn’t have squelched the virus in a way public-health experts were envisioning in 2021 (and wouldn’t have absolved us of booster maintenance). And even if the death toll slipped below 100 deaths a day, the virus’s chronic effects would still pose an immense threat. But thresholds such as those, flawed though they were, were never even set. “I’m not sure we ever set any goals at all” to designate when we’d have the virus beat, Céline Gounder, an infectious-disease physician at NYU and an editor-at-large for public health at Kaiser Family Foundation Health News, told me. And if they had been, we probably still would not have met them: Two years out, we certainly have not.
Instead, efforts to mitigate the virus have only gotten laxer. Most individuals are no longer masking, testing, or staying up to date on their shots; on community scales, the public goods that once seemed essential—ventilation, sick leave, equitable access to insurance and health care—have already faded from most discourse. That COVID has been more muted in recent months feels “more like luck” than a product of concerted muffling from us, Scarpino told me. Should another SARS-CoV-2 variant sweep the world or develop resistance to Paxlovid, “we don’t have much in the way of a plan,” he said.
If and when the virus troubles us again, our lack of preparedness will be a reflection of America’s classically reactive approach to public health. Even amid a years-long emergency declaration that spanned national and international scales, we squandered the opportunity “to make the system more resilient to the next crisis,” Gounder said. There is little foresight for what might come next. And individuals are still largely being asked to fend for themselves—which means that as this emergency declaration ends, we are setting ourselves up for another to inevitably come, and hit us just as hard.
As the final roadblocks to declaring normalcy disappear, we’re unlikely to patch those gaps. The PHEIC, at this point, was more symbolic than practical—but that didn’t make it inconsequential. Experts worry that its end will sap what remaining incentive there was for some countries to sustain a COVID-focused response—one that would, say, keep vaccines, treatments, and tests in the hands of those who need them most. “Public interest is very binary—it’s either an emergency or it’s not,” says Saskia Popescu, an infection-prevention expert at George Mason University. With the PHEIC now gone, the world has officially toggled itself to “not.” But there’s no going back to 2019. Between that and the height of the pandemic is middle-ground maintenance, a level of concern and response that the world has still not managed to properly calibrate.
An astonishing success rate.
Nature, Published online: 05 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01567-zChief of US public-health agency announced her departure as COVID-19 emergency declarations end.
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I keep interacting with gpt3/4 and have to often write messages to friends/girlfriend etc at the same time. I have started having to actually walk away and from my PC to remind myself that the txt messages Im sending are to real and alive people and not AI's. Ive found a bit of music helps keep me a bit more….. human. Its a phenomenon for sure..
For years, whenever technology (computers, smartphones, multifunction printers, etc.) was giving me a hard time, I would say, “I am Human. I will win!”
Now that AI is improving, should I be worried that “they” have a dossier on me?
I've been experimenting with it as of late after hearing all the hype, and frankly I think people are overestimating how powerful these tools are. Even the most powerful tools like MJ cannot produce accurate results which means any image generated will only 'roughly' resemble the prompt.
This lack of precision is okay if you're only using the AI as a toy, but for serious work it's useless. I've spent hours trying to get things to look exactly or even just mostly as I want and there is always something that gets messed up.
I already know what the likely counter-argument will be. "AI will just get better."
I'm not so convinced. 50 years ago people said that nuclear fusion was just 'another 20 years away' and then another, and then another, and then another…
Don't be shocked if AI image generation begins to stagnate in the next year or so before eventually hitting a brick wall. I don't think artists have a reason to throw in the towel just yet.
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Namely, if you were to bestow upon an AI tool the gift of free and unfettered access to any and all data it desires, what would you choose? ✌🏼After all, which AI tool wouldn't want to revel in the boundless expanse of the digital universe, absorbing every bit and byte of information it can find? But let's try to be specific here, shall we? If you were to pick just one lucky algorithm, which would it be? Maybe one that can write a romance novel that will make you swoon ? The possibilities are truly endless…So let us put our heads together and ponder this conundrum. Cheers
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- Rochelle Walensky announced that she will step down from her position as the CDC director on June 30.
This is an edition of The Atlantic Daily, a newsletter that guides you through the biggest stories of the day, helps you discover new ideas, and recommends the best in culture. Sign up for it here.
The idea of the “informed consumer” may have always been a myth, but online shopping has made distinguishing between reality and manipulation even harder.
First, here are four new stories from The Atlantic:
- America’s lowest standard
- Why Pope Francis isn’t with the West on Ukraine
- Every emergency needs to end, even COVID-19.
- AI is about to make social media (much) more toxic.
An Illusion of Control
Booking a hotel room used to be fairly easy. But as my colleague Jacob Stern wrote earlier this week, the process has recently become a “uniquely excruciating experience.” You might see a few good deals on booking websites, only to click through and find that they’ve become unavailable. In the event that a room is genuinely up for grabs, it can turn out to be much more expensive than the price you were first shown, because of additional fees and taxes. The ordeal, Jacob writes, “will leave you questioning what is true and what is false. It will beat you down until, at a certain point, you won’t even care.”
One potential culprit for this hotel-booking fiasco is the airline industry, which pioneered the use of “dynamic pricing” in the 1980s, adjusting rates in response to supply-and-demand changes. By the late ’90s, hotels had adopted the practice as well. Jacob explains that the resulting price fluctuations cause problems for deal aggregators such as Expedia and Booking.com, which are able to scrape pricing information only periodically and therefore struggle to keep up with the latest figures.
In the end, the common theme of hotel booking is shoppers’ inability to tell what’s really on offer. As Jacob writes:
The best analogy for online hotel booking, I think, is a hall of mirrors: You can’t tell what’s real, and you can’t escape. In that sense, hotel booking, perhaps more than any other everyday commercial experience, fits perfectly into the landscape of 2023 America. This is online shopping for the “post-truth” era.
Post-truth describes the rest of our online-shopping ecosystem as well. In her February article “The Death of the Smart Shopper,” my colleague Amanda Mull notes that Amazon has become filled with junk results and apparent repeats of the same exact product—sometimes with the same exact image—but with different sellers, prices, and ratings. “In these conditions, understanding what it is you’re buying, where it came from, and what you can expect of it is a fool’s errand,” Amanda writes. This problem isn’t limited to Amazon, she explains. Although being an informed consumer has always been challenging, it’s basically impossible in 2023.
Brick-and-mortar retailers are no strangers to consumer manipulation. But shopping on the internet tricks would-be buyers into believing that if they can’t distinguish reality from sales tactics, it’s their own fault. Shoppers can now conduct their own mini research projects when deciding what to buy: They can read reviews, watch videos, consult the opinions of influencers and product-recommendation sites such as Wirecutter and The Strategist, compare products across multiple brands. But access to such information offers merely the illusion of control. Amanda writes:
Because you’re shopping online, you can’t go look at most of the products in a store, and you can’t tell how—or whether—one thing is different from the very similar thing two thumbnails down. You can’t tell if a particular product will spy on you or sell your data … You buy something cheap and hope it holds up—or at least tides you over—for a while. If it doesn’t, you probably can’t get someone on the phone to solve your problem, so you toss it or squirrel it away in the back of a storage closet.
Amanda acknowledges that misleading online-retail tactics might seem trivial to some. But she makes a good case for caring about the decline of what’s left of informed shopping: “If you can’t differentiate one product from a dozen listings for a seemingly identical thing,” she writes, “you can’t even begin to understand the conditions under which it was produced, or at what cost to workers and the environment.” Online shopping strips consumers of our ability to understand the world we’re living in. And yet, we’re living in it, scrolling through product after product, searching for something true.
- Rochelle Walensky announced that she will step down from her position as the CDC director on June 30.
- The killing of Jordan Neely, who was placed in a chokehold by another passenger on a subway train, was ruled a homicide by New York City’s medical examiner.
- Job growth in the U.S. accelerated in April despite interest-rate hikes by the Federal Reserve.
- Books Briefing: Authors frequently manipulate language to unsettle their audiences, Elise Hannum writes. Small choices can have stark consequences.
Explore all of our newsletters here.
Call of the Wild
By James Parker
Overheard in the men’s bathroom of a movie theater in Boston, after a screening of Creed III:
“That movie basically just makes me want to get in shape.”
“It makes me want to get in shape mentally.”
“Bro, that movie was all about mental stuff. You didn’t get that?”
The mental stuff. That’s where it’s at. The mind, the mind—it can bear you sweetly along on pulses of transparent super-energy, or it can rear up and bite your face off. And if, like me, you’ve watched 432 episodes of survival TV, the beloved subgenre that pits bare, forked man against the unrelenting wilderness, you’ve seen it happen over and over again. It’s not Alaska that breaks you, or Mongolia, or northeastern Labrador—it’s the contents of your own head.
More From The Atlantic
Read. A Minor Revolution, a new book about why our children should be more demanding, not less.
Watch. Apple TV+’s new adaptation of Frog and Toad adds a cast of woodland friends that highlight, rather than hide, the duo’s profound partnership.
I explored how our brains get tricked into buying certain products for an edition of the Wonder Reader newsletter last year. Digging through The Atlantic’s archives for stories about shopping, I came across a hilarious account of an annoying shopping experience from 1931. “I don’t like to shop, but I do like to buy,” an advertising executive named Frances Taylor wrote.
One moment in her essay makes me chuckle every time: Looking for an over-the-bed lamp, she’s told that the store only has “one … it is pink and it is broken.” “I too am pink and broken,” Taylor writes, “but I manage to reach another store.” As Amanda reminded us, a golden era of shopping never really existed.
Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.
First of all, thank you for spending time to read this post I really appreciate it! Last time, I received some advise on which career path I should think of and I was wondering if anyone could help me with choosing classes from the list that I made that you think it would be necessary because I could only take two classes from this list and I am not certain about what classes I should take. This is the list for it and I wish you have a great weekend!:)
I want to learn how to think more rationally and be logically consistent when I'm speaking.
Editor’s Note: The following is a brief letter from Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google and cofounder and member of the board at Singularity Group, Singularity Hub’s parent company, in response to the Future of Life Institute’s recent letter, “Pause Giant AI Experiments: An Open Letter.”
The FLI letter addresses the risks of accelerating progress in AI and the ensuing race to commercialize the technology and calls for a pause in the development of algorithms more powerful than OpenAI’s
, the large language model behind the company’s ChatGPT Plus and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot. The FLI letter has thousands of signatories—including deep learning pioneer, Yoshua Bengio, University of California Berkeley professor of computer science, Stuart Russell, Stability AI CEO, Emad Mostaque, Elon Musk, and many others—and has stirred vigorous debate in the AI community.
Regarding the open letter to “pause” research on AI “more powerful than GPT-4,” this criterion is too vague to be practical. And the proposal faces a serious coordination problem: those that agree to a pause may fall far behind corporations or nations that disagree. There are tremendous benefits to advancing AI in critical fields such as medicine and health, education, pursuit of renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels, and scores of other fields. I didn’t sign, because I believe we can address the signers’ safety concerns in a more tailored way that doesn’t compromise these vital lines of research.
I participated in the Asilomar AI Principles Conference in 2017 and was actively involved in the creation of guidelines to create artificial intelligence in an ethical manner. So I know that safety is a critical issue. But more nuance is needed if we wish to unlock AI’s profound advantages to health and productivity while avoiding the real perils.
— Ray Kurzweil
Inventor, best-selling author, and futurist
Nature, Published online: 05 May 2023; doi:10.1038/d41586-023-01559-zThe pandemic has been on a “downward trend” but the risk of new variants remains, WHO’s director-general says.
As far as alarming headlines are concerned, there are few scarier than those warning that oral sex is causing an epidemic of throat cancer.
Last week, British cancer researcher Hisham Mehanna published a sobering column in The Conversation — "Oral sex is now the leading risk factor for throat cancer" — about the increase in throat cancer as a result of HPV infection, often contracted via oral sex.
"For oropharyngeal cancer, the main risk factor is the number of lifetime sexual partners, especially oral sex," the University of Birmingham cancer expert wrote. "Those with six or more lifetime oral-sex partners are 8.5 times more likely to develop oropharyngeal cancer than those who do not [practice] oral sex."
That's indeed alarming. But there's good news for any oral sex enjoyers out there: there's an HPV vaccine, Gardasil, that can greatly decrease the risk.
Mehanna, to his credit, does allude to the vaccine — but only briefly, far below the headline, and with an emphasis on growing vaccine hesitancy.
The reality, according to the CDC, is that "vaccination could prevent more than 90 percent of
caused by HPV from ever developing."
That's not a complete guarantee — after all, there's no such thing as perfectly safe sex, only safer sex — but widespread vaccination could cut HPV-related cancers into a tiny fraction.
Dentists in particular, the CDC notes, have become invested in suggesting HPV vaccination to patients, citing a growing body of evidence that it can prevent oral or throat cancer.
Mehanna does make another good point in his column: that HPV vaccination, which was initially only recommended for girls and young women due to the virus' propensity for causing cervical cancer, is now also available to boys and young men. While there are still more girls vaccinated against the sexually-transmitted infection than boys, HPV vaccination appears to be on the rise for boys, too.
In other words, it's true that oral sex isn't risk free. But there's an easy step that anyone partaking in it can take to drastically cut the risk — and the more people are aware of that, the better.
More on cancer: Man's Cancer Caused "Uncontrollable" Irish Accent, Doctors Say
The post Worried About Getting Throat Cancer From Oral Sex? We Have Very Good News appeared first on Futurism.
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- In March, Salesforce introduced Einstein GPT, a product that uses OpenAI’s technology to draft sales emails, part of a trend that Evans recently described as the “boring automation of boring processes in the boring back-offices of boring companies.” Watson’s legacy—a big name attached to a humble purpose—is playing out yet again .
In early 2011, Ken Jennings looked like humanity’s last hope.
, an artificial intelligence created by the tech giant IBM, had picked off lesser Jeopardy players before the show’s all-time champ entered a three-day exhibition match. At the end of the first game, Watson—a machine the size of 10 refrigerators—had Jennings on the ropes, leading $35,734 to $4,800. On day three, Watson finished the job. “I for one welcome our new computer overlords,” Jennings wrote on his video screen during Final Jeopardy.
Watson was better than any previous AI at addressing a problem that had long stumped researchers: How do you get a computer to precisely understand a clue posed in idiomatic English and then spit out the correct answer (or, as in Jeopardy, the right question)? “Not a hit list of documents where the answer may be,” which is what search engines returned, “but the very specific answer,” David Ferrucci, Watson’s lead developer, told me. His team fed Watson more than 200 million pages of documents—from dictionaries, encyclopedias, novels, plays, the Bible—creating something that sure seemed like a synthetic brain. And America lost its mind over it: “Could Watson be coming next for our jobs in radiology or the law?” NPR asked in a story called “The Dark Side of Watson.” Four months after its Jeopardy win, the computer was named Person of the Year at the Webby Awards. (Watson’s acceptance speech: “Person of the Year: ironic.”)
But now that people are once again facing questions about seemingly omnipotent AI, Watson is conspicuously absent. When I asked the longtime tech analyst Benedict Evans about Watson, he quoted Obi-Wan Kenobi: “That’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.” ChatGPT and other new generative-AI tools can furnish pastiche poetry and popes wearing Balenciaga, capabilities that far exceed what Watson could do a decade ago, though ones still based in the ideas of natural-language processing that helped dethrone Jennings. Watson should be bragging in its stilted voice, not fading into irrelevance. But its trajectory is happening all over again; part of what doomed the technology is now poised to chip away at the potential of popular AI products today.
The first thing to know about Watson is that it isn’t dead. The machine’s models and algorithms have been nipped and tucked into a body of B2B software. Today IBM sells Watson by subscription, folding the code into applications like Watson Assistant, Watson Orchestrate, and Watson Discovery, which help automate back-end processes within customer service, human resources, and document entry and analysis. Companies like Honda, Siemens, and CVS Health hit up “Big Blue” for AI assistance on a number of automation projects, and an IBM spokesperson told me that the company’s Watson tools are used by more than 100 million people. If you ask IBM to build you an app that uses machine learning to optimize something in your business, “they’ll be very happy to build that, and it will probably be perfectly good,” Evans said.
From the very beginning, IBM wanted to turn Watson into a business tool. After all, this is IBM—the
—a company that long ago carved out a niche catering to big firms that need IT help. But what Watson has become is much more modest than IBM’s initial sales pitch, which included unleashing the machine’s fact-finding prowess on topics as varied as stock tips and personalized cancer treatments. And to remind everyone just how revolutionary Watson was, IBM put out TV commercials in which Watson cheerfully bantered with celebrities like Ridley Scott and Serena Williams. The company soon struck AI-centric deals with hospitals such as Memorial Sloan Kettering and the MD Anderson Cancer Center; they slowly foundered. Watson the machine could play Jeopardy at a very high level; Watson the digital assistant, essentially a swole Clippy fed on enterprise data and techno-optimism, could barely read doctors’ handwriting, let alone disrupt oncology.
The tech just didn’t measure up. “There was no intelligence there,” Evans said. Watson’s machine-learning models were very advanced for 2011, but not compared with bots like ChatGPT, which have ingested much of what has been published online. Watson was trained on far less information and excelled only at answering fact-based questions like the kind you find on Jeopardy. That talent contained obvious commercial potential—at least in certain areas, like search. “I think that what Watson was good at at the time kind of morphed into what you see Google doing,” Ferrucci said: surfacing precise answers to colloquial questions.
But the suits in charge went after the bigger and more technically challenging game of feeding the machine entirely different types of material. They viewed Watson as a generational meal ticket. “There was a lot of hyperbole around it, and a lot of lack of appreciation for what it really can do and what it can’t do, and ultimately what is needed to effectively solve business problems,” Ferrucci said. He left IBM in 2012 and later founded an AI start-up called Elemental Cognition.
When asked about what went wrong, an IBM spokesperson pointed me to a recent statement from CEO Arving Krishna: “I think the mistake we made in 2011 is that we concluded something correctly, but drew the wrong conclusions from the conclusions.” Watson was “a concept car,” Kareem Yusuf, the head of product management for IBM’s software portfolio, told me—a proof of technology meant to prod further innovation.
And yet to others, IBM may have seemed more concerned with building a showroom for its flashy convertible than figuring out how to design next year’s model. Part of IBM’s problem was structural. Richer, nimbler companies like Google, Facebook, and even Uber were driving the most relevant AI research, developing their own algorithms and threading them through everyday software. “If you were a cutting-edge machine-learning academic,” Evans said, “and Google comes to you and Meta comes to you and IBM comes to you, why would you go to IBM? It’s a company from the ’70s.” By the mid-2010s, he told me, Google and Facebook were leading the pack on machine-learning research and development, making big bets on AI start-ups such as DeepMind. Meanwhile, IBM was producing a 90-second Academy Awards spot starring Watson, Carrie Fisher, and the voice of Steve Buscemi.
In a sense, IBM’s vision for a suite of business tools built around machine learning and natural-language processing has come true—just not thanks to IBM. Today, AI powers your search results, assembles your news feed, and alerts your bank to possible fraud activity. It hums in the background of “everything you deal with every day,” Rosanne Liu, a senior research scientist at Google and the co-founder of ML Collective, a research nonprofit, told me. This AI moment is creating even more of a corporate clamor for automation as every company wants a bot of its own.
Although Watson has been reduced to a historical footnote, IBM is still getting in on the action. The most advanced AI work is not happening in IBM’s Westchester, New York, headquarters, but much of it is open-source and has a short shelf life. Tailoring Silicon Valley’s hand-me-downs can be a profitable business. Yusuf invoked platoons of knowledge workers armed with the tools of the 20th century. “You’ve got people with PDFs, highlighters,” he said. IBM can offer them programs that help them do better—that bump their productivity a few points, or decrease their error rates, or spot problems faster, such as faults on a manufacturing line or cracks in a bridge.
Whatever IBM makes next won’t fulfill the promise implied by Watson’s early run, but that promise was misunderstood—in many ways by IBM most of all. Watson was a demo model capable of drumming up enormous popular interest, but its potential sputtered as soon as the C-suite attempted to turn on the money spigot. The same thing seems to be true of the new crop of AI tools. High schoolers can generate A Separate Peace essays in the voice of Mitch Hedberg, sure, but that’s not where the money is. Instead, ChatGPT is quickly being sanded down into a million product-market fits. The banal consumer and enterprise software that results—features to help you find photos of your dog or sell you a slightly better kibble—could become as invisible to us as all the other data we passively consume. In March, Salesforce introduced Einstein GPT, a product that uses OpenAI’s technology to draft sales emails, part of a trend that Evans recently described as the “boring automation of boring processes in the boring back-offices of boring companies.” Watson’s legacy—a big name attached to a humble purpose—is playing out yet again.
The future of AI may still prove to be truly world-changing in the way that Watson once suggested. But the only business that IBM has managed to disrupt is its own. On Monday, International Workers’ Day, it announced that it would pause hiring for roughly 7,800 jobs that it believes AI could perform in the coming years. Vacating thousands of roles in the name of cost-saving measures has rarely sounded so upbeat, but after years of positive spin, why back down now? Yusuf swore that IBM’s future is just around the corner, and this time would be different. “Watch this space,” he said.
Legislators are seeking to regulate AI-generated political advertisements ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
As The Washington Post reports, representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) has authored a bill that would require political parties to disclose if they used AI-generated content in their ads.
"Our current laws don't begin to scratch the surface with respect to protecting the American people from what the rapid deployment of AI can mean in disrupting society," Clarke told WaPo, adding that her legislation is part of a collective effort to "get the Congress going on addressing many of the challenges that we're facing with AI."
The need for rules governing the use of AI in political ads has already become apparent as of late.
Clarke's bill is in response to the Republican National Committee (RNC)'s recently released ad, which featured fictional, AI-generated scenes of China invading Taiwan and hundreds of banks shutting down.
Then there were the many AI-generated images of former president — and current presidential candidate — Donald Trump getting arrested or praying.
In short, synthetic content is already making a big splash in the 2024 presidential race.
Although Clarke's bill wouldn't protect against all kinds of citizen-generated AI disinformation, attempting to get ahead of synthetic content now is likely a wise move.
"I think there are really important uses of AI," Clarke told WaPo, "but there have to be some rules to the road, so that the American people are not deceived or put into harm's way."
That said, it's certainly worth noting that the RNC did feature a small AI disclosure in its ad that read: "Built entirely with AI imagery."
But as Clarke told the WaPo, there's no guarantee that everyone putting out political ads will follow the RNC's lead without the risk of legal retribution.
"There will be those who will not want to disclose that it's AI-generated," Clarke continued, "and we want to protect against that, particularly when we look at the political season before us."
READ MORE: Bill would require disclosure of AI-generated content in political ads [The Washington Post]
More on AI and 2024: Republicans Release AI-Generated Ad of Chinese Invasion
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