Category Archives: Technology

Applying machine learning to cosmology

Charlie Wood writes: A group of scientists may have stumbled upon a radical new way to do cosmology. Cosmologists usually determine the composition of the universe by observing as much of it as possible. But these researchers have found that a machine learning algorithm can scrutinize a single simulated galaxy and predict the overall makeup… Read More »

I’m not sorry for my delay

Joe Pinsker writes: At first, being reachable all the time felt good. To professionals who started using BlackBerries 20 years ago to conduct business on the go, it registered as a superpower. “They felt like masters of the universe,” Melissa Mazmanian, an informatics professor at UC Irvine who studied the devices’ uptake in the early… Read More »

The worrisome rise of Non-Fungible Tokens

Caleb Scharf writes: Humans are very good at inventing commodities, and we’ve been at it for a long time. See that pebble over there? Well, that’s a better pebble than all these others, and if you give me something in exchange for it, I’ll let you take ownership. It’ll be your pebble, forever. And soon… Read More »

Are we witnessing the dawn of post-theory science?

Laura Spinney writes: Isaac Newton apocryphally discovered his second law – the one about gravity – after an apple fell on his head. Much experimentation and data analysis later, he realised there was a fundamental relationship between force, mass and acceleration. He formulated a theory to describe that relationship – one that could be expressed… Read More »

Waste is central, not peripheral, to everything we design, make and do

Justin McGuirk writes: The opposition between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ is problematic for many reasons, but there’s one that we rarely discuss. The ‘nature vs culture’ dualism leaves out an entire domain that properly belongs to neither: the world of waste. The mountains of waste that we produce every year, the torrents of polluting effluent, the… Read More »

China harvests masses of data on Western targets, documents show

The Washington Post reports: China is turning a major part of its internal Internet data surveillance network outward, mining Western social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to equip its government agencies, military and police with information on foreign targets, according to a Washington Post review of hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts and company filings.… Read More »

Churches target new members, with help from Big Data

The Wall Street Journal reports: Struggling with grief? Too much debt? On the verge of divorce? Churches are ready to deliver a digital intervention, with help from Big Data. A small company called Gloo has put itself at the forefront of an effort to analyze Americans’ personal data and online activities to help churches reach… Read More »

What does it mean for AI to understand?

Melanie Mitchell writes: Remember IBM’s Watson, the AI Jeopardy! champion? A 2010 promotion proclaimed, “Watson understands natural language with all its ambiguity and complexity.” However, as we saw when Watson subsequently failed spectacularly in its quest to “revolutionize medicine with artificial intelligence,” a veneer of linguistic facility is not the same as actually comprehending human… Read More »

What the Amish can teach us about technology

In 1999, Howard Rheingold wrote: Collective negotiations over the use of telephones have ignited intense controversies in the Amish community since the beginning of the 20th century. In fact, a dispute over the role of the phone was the principal issue behind the 1920s division of the Amish church, wherein one-fifth of the membership broke… Read More »

Interesting research, but no, we don’t have living, reproducing robots

John Timmer writes: Scientists on Monday announced that they’d optimized a way of getting mobile clusters of cells to organize other cells into smaller clusters that, under the right conditions, could be mobile themselves. The researchers call this process “kinematic self-replication,” although that’s not entirely right—the copies need help from humans to start moving on… Read More »

Amazon wages secret war on Americans’ privacy, documents show

Reuters reports: In recent years, Inc has killed or undermined privacy protections in more than three dozen bills across 25 states, as the e-commerce giant amassed a lucrative trove of personal data on millions of American consumers. Amazon executives and staffers detail these lobbying victories in confidential documents reviewed by Reuters. In Virginia, the… Read More »