|“Anti-social behaviour is a trait of intelligence in a world full of conformists” Tesla.
What will the world be like in 2050? Anti-virus and cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab has released an esoteric collaborative art project that sets its sights on what the world will be like in 2050. Artists, futurists and scientists have been asked to contribute their predictions on life in their cities 33 years in the future, and they’ve been mapped onto a rotating globe for visitors to explore. If you’ve got any better ideas, you can contribute them yourself. The site has a voting system to help promote the best ideas. Get in and have a look around. It’s fantastic fun to play with – and a beautifully designed interactive website.
Here’s the one summary you need to read to fully understand the exact state of play in the corporate AI + Big Data stack. Matt Turck superbly and comprehensively summarises the high-level trends. Faced with an enormous avalanche of AI press, panels, newsletters and tweets, many people who had a long-standing interest in machine learning reacted the way one does when your local band suddenly becomes huge: on the one hand, pride; on the other hand, a distinct distaste for all the poseurs who show up late to the party.
Here’s a list of 10 jobs that could be replaced by AI in the next decade: Surgeons, Teachers, Police Officers, Commercial Airline Pilots, Pharmacists, Astronauts, Bartenders, Poker Dealers, Journalists, and Lawyers.
Artificial intelligence is beginning to take more than a superficial inspiration from neuroscience, allowing development in the field to speed up by tapping into advances made in another. That’s led to researchers taking cues from the brain in areas like memory, the hierarchical organisation of thoughts, and the role of attention in vision, to build AI systems. At the same time, neuroscientists are taking note of the increasingly powerful analytical techniques made possible by AI and are beginning to use it themselves to further their own understanding of the brain. These intertwined phenomena will speed the development of both AI and neuroscience, letting insights from one be rapidly translated into the other. There’s a free e-book by the excellent SF tech journalist Jack Clark, and you get it here.
In The Brain Defense, author Kevin Davis explores the growing use of brain images as evidence in American courtrooms. What Davis calls the “brain defence” is the strategy of using evidence of apparent brain abnormalities as a mitigating factor when defendants are convicted of violent crimes. If someone’s brain isn’t working properly, the logic goes, then they can’t be held fully responsible for their actions, and shouldn’t be punished as severely. Over the past 20 years, the use of neuroscience in court has grown, to the extent that today, defendants have successfully claimed ‘ineffective assistance of counsel’ because their lawyers didn’t order brain scans. It’s a fascinating and important issue, and The Brain Defense is an excellent and balanced account of it.
“It might seem weird to connect technology and neuroscience,” states Harvard professor David Cox, “but is actually something we have been doing for a very long time.” Cox points that through history, we have always used metaphors for our mind, like pneumatic power, steam power, and today’s technology of the computer. “Now computers are the lens through which we see our brains.”
But not everything is straightforward: Jim Fallon was disturbed by the brain scan before him. A neuroscientist for more than 20 years at the University of California, Irvine, Fallon knew how to look for abnormal traits in the human brain—traits that could explain mental illness, aberrant behaviour and even a penchant for murder. This scan showed the brain of someone with deep problems. Except for one thing: the scan was of Jim Fallon’s own brain.
And then sometimes, it’s difficult to work out if it’s satire: “Scientists have unpicked the regions of the brain involved in dreaming, in a study with significant implications for our understanding of the purpose of dreams and of consciousness itself. What’s more, changes in brain activity have been found to offer clues as to what the dream is about. The methodology behind this claim? The Experiments involved participants being woken at various points throughout the night and asked to report whether they had been dreaming. “Overall in the whole experiment we did over 1,000 awakenings,” said Siclari. If the participants had been dreaming, they were asked how long they thought it had lasted and whether they could remember anything about their dream, such as whether it involved faces, movement or thinking, or whether it was instead a vivid, sensory experience”. Beyond ridiculous. Are they Scientists or Satirists?
Smart Cities is one of the touchstones of the big corporate giants like Cisco and IBM, and the idea is an exemplar of both Big AI and Big Data. But since security is a cost no-one seems willing to bear, we’re being put in great potential danger says MIT’s Technology Review: Smart Cities Could Be Crippled By Dumb Security. On Friday night, residents of Dallas struggled to get as much sleep as they might have liked. At around 11:40 P.M., the city’s hurricane warning system sounded: 156 emergency sirens, all screaming out in unison. It happened another 15 times, each burst lasting 90 seconds until the alarms finally fell silent around 1:20 on Saturday morning. There was no hurricane coming—the sounds were triggered by a hacker who’d penetrated the system’s security measures, and to stop the sirens the whole system had to shut down altogether. I’d hazard a guess that the warning sirens, are a warning siren – “do you want to see what else we can do?”. I repeat: Marc Goodman’s Future Crimes book (“if it has a screen, it can be hacked”), and Bruce Schneier’s monthly Cyber-security newsletter are indispensable. Here’s The Economist this week on “Why Everything is Hackable“.
OK – a little light relief! The world’s first Autonomous Biped Robot Fighting Tournament just took place in Japan. The highlights video is both hilarious and amazing. Once the fight begins the robots “handler” can do nothing but watch. And here’s a Robot sorting system which helps a Chinese company sort at least 200,000 packages a day in the warehouse.