The insecure nature of work is a result of decisions by corporations and policymakers.
But this narrative is wrong. The history of labor shows that technology does not usually drive social change. On the contrary, social change is typically driven by decisions we make about how to organize our world. Only later does technology swoop in, accelerating and consolidating those changes.
This insight is crucial for anyone concerned about the insecurity and other shortcomings of the gig economy. For it reminds us that far from being an unavoidable consequence of technological progress, the nature of work always remains a matter of social choice. It is not a result of an algorithm; it is a collection of decisions by corporations and policymakers.
Researchers at IIT-H working on narrating historical incidents in digital form
The city’s history is taking a giant digital leap, from fading pages to virtual reality headgears, promising to add dimensions to the experience of “experiencing” heritage.
Researchers at the Design Department of Indian Institute of Technology-Hyderabad are working on conserving the city’s heritage through virtual reality (VR), giving narration a digital but a life-like feel. Stories being told, at the moment of those from the Qutb Shahi era, aim to teleport one to the time in which the historical incidents occurred.
For poorer people in India and many other countries, a computer engineer has found a way to detect breast cancer without radiation.
He knew that whatever device he designed would have to be usable by community health care workers, the backbone of most developing countries’ health systems. It would also have to be portable and battery operated. And screening would have to affordable and painless.
Using a new ceramic sensor technology developed at Drexel University’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems in Philadelphia to detect subtle variations in breast tissue, Mr. Shah and his colleague Matthew Campisi developed iBreastExam, a battery-operated wireless machine that records variations in breast elasticity. It’s hand-held and allows health care workers to perform breast examinations in five minutes, anywhere. Painless and radiation-free, it provides results just a few minutes after the exam through a mobile app, which also records patients’ data
Amazon’s Plan to Reach 500 Million Indians: Speak Their Language
BANGALORE, India — Only 10 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people know English. Yet most of the country’s e-commerce services have been offered only in English, closing off online shopping to the vast majority of people here.
Now Amazon is aiming to break through that language barrier. The e-commerce giant on Tuesday offered a hearty “namaste” to this country’s half a billion Hindi speakers by making its local website and apps available in India’s most popular language. Users of the India site or app will be able to choose Hindi as their preferred language, much as American users can choose Spanish.
The big picture: From Dubai to the U.S., Tokyo to Moscow, Tel Aviv to Beijing and more, billionaires, privateers and political leaders are vying to land on the Moon, colonize Mars, mine asteroids — and just get off the Earth. "Whatever we have evolved into hundreds and thousands of years from now, we'll look at these decades as when the human race moved off the planet," said Peter Diamandis, chairman of the X-Prize Foundation.
Jeff Hawkins Is Finally Ready to Explain His Brain Research
REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — In the global race to build artificial intelligence, it was a missed opportunity.
Jeff Hawkins, a Silicon Valley veteran who spent the last decade exploring the mysteries of the human brain, arranged a meeting with DeepMind, the world’s leading A.I. lab.
Scientists at DeepMind, which is owned by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, want to build machines that can do anything the brain can do. Mr. Hawkins runs a little company with one goal: figure out how the brain works and then reverse engineer it.
The meeting, set for April at DeepMind’s offices in London, never happened. DeepMind employs hundreds of A.I. researchers along with a team of seasoned neuroscientists. But when Mr. Hawkins chatted with Demis Hassabis, one of the founders of DeepMind, before his visit, they agreed that almost no one at the London lab would understand his work.
Private businesses and rising powers are replacing the cold-war duopoly
Some 4,500 satellites circle Earth, providing communications services and navigational tools, monitoring weather, observing the universe, spying and doing more besides. Getting them there was once the business of the superpowers’ armed forces and space agencies. Now it is mostly done by companies and the governments of developing countries.
The use of drones to make household deliveries has not taken off as quickly as expected. But with operators gaining experience, regulators have begun to relax the rules, especially away from built-up areas. People living in parts of Reykjavik can get restaurant food delivered to their backyards. A drone in Singapore will soon ferry supplies to ships moored offshore. Residents of central Manhattan may have to wait a while longer
Why Doctors Reject Tools That Make Their Jobs Easier
From the thermometer’s invention onward, physicians have feared—incorrectly—that new technology would make their jobs obsolete
I want to tell you about a brouhaha in my field over a “new” medical discipline three hundred years ago. Half my fellow doctors thought it weighed them down and wanted nothing to do with it. The other half celebrated it as a means for medicine to finally become modern, objective, and scientific. The discipline was thermometry, and its controversial tool a glass tube used to measure body temperature called a thermometer.
This all began in 1717, when Daniel Fahrenheit moved to Amsterdam and offered his newest temperature sensor to the Dutch physician Herman Boerhaave.* Boerhaave tried it out and liked it. He proposed using measurements with this device to guide diagnosis and therapy.
A new genetic-engineering technology should be used with care
The extermination that the creatures in Mr Simoni’s lab are designed to take part in is less viscerally gratifying—but far more consequential. The mosquitoes are being fitted with a piece of dna called a gene drive. Unlike the genes introduced into run-of-the-mill genetically modified organisms, gene drives do not just sit still once inserted into a chromosome. They actively spread themselves, thereby reaching more and more of the population with each generation. If their effect is damaging, they could in principle wipe out whole species.
To engineer an extinction is quite a step. But it is not unprecedented. In 1980 Variola, the smallpox virus, was exterminated from the wild. That marked the eradication of a disease which, from 1900 to 1980, killed around 300m people. If gene drives like those being worked on at Imperial and elsewhere were to condemn to a similar fate the mosquitoes that spread malaria, a second of humankind’s great scourges might be consigned to history.
It need not stop with malaria. Gene drives can in principle be used against any creatures which reproduce sexually with short generations and aren’t too rooted to a single spot. The insects that spread leishmaniasis, Chagas disease, dengue fever, chikungunya, trypanosomiasis and Zika could all be potential targets. So could creatures which harm only humankind’s dominion, not people themselves. Biologists at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a gene-drive system for Drosophila suzukii, an Asian fruitfly which, as an invasive species, damages berry and fruit crops in America and Europe. Island Conservation, an international environmental ngo, thinks gene drives could offer a humane and effective way of reversing the damage done by invasive species such as rats and stoats to native ecosystems in New Zealand and Hawaii.
Needless to say, the enthusiasm is not universal. Other environmental groups worry that it will not prove possible to contain gene drives to a single place, and that species seen as invasive in one place might end up decimated in other places where they are blameless, or even beneficial. If drives are engineered into species that play a pivotal but previously unappreciated ecological role, or if they spread from a species of little ecological consequence to a close relative that matters more, they could have damaging and perhaps irreversible effects on ecosystems.
UK mathematician Hannah Fry on the promise and danger of an AI world.
In the introduction to her new book, Hannah Fry points out something interesting about the phrase “Hello World.” It’s never been quite clear, she says, whether the phrase—which is frequently the entire output of a student’s first computer program—is supposed to be attributed to the program, awakening for the first time, or to the programmer, announcing their triumphant first creation.
Perhaps for this reason, “Hello World” calls to mind a dialogue between human and machine, one which has never been more relevant than it is today. Her book, called Hello World, published in September, walks us through a rapidly computerizing world. Fry is both optimistic and excited—along with her Ph.D. students at the University of College, London, she has worked on many algorithms herself—and cautious. In conversation and in her book, she issues a call to arms: We need to make algorithms transparent, regulated, and forgiving of the flawed creatures that converse with them.
I reached her by telephone while she was on a book tour in New York City.
We should be thinking more about how much A.I. has changed our lives already, and the future of human-algorithm collaboration.
When it comes to the future of artificial intelligence, we seem to be stuck in a loop. We tell the same stories about A.I. over and over again: society is destroyed (the “Terminator” movies), the machines emulate and replace us (“Ex Machina”), the machines become gods pulling the strings (“The Matrix”). This is a dangerous way to think about A.I., because the stories we tell influence the decisions we make about how such systems should operate.
None of the three scenarios I just described represents a future in which we would want to live. They are all trajectories in which superintelligent machines simply leave us behind. If we spend all of our time looking over our shoulders for killer robots, that means we are not looking ahead to discern the outcomes we might actually want. A study of A.I. representations in film and television by Christopher Noessel underscores the problem: We have lots of stories about the power and the duplicitous nature of A.I., but almost none exploring what he calls the “Untold A.I.” themes: accountability, effective policy and broad literacy around these technologies.
To thrive in the era of intelligent machines, we need to expand our thinking. Instead of worrying about godlike super-machines, we should tell better stories about all the everyday ways A.I. is already changing the world.
Members of USA Jamat explore frontiers of science and technology
This month, The.Ismaili is focussing on the theme of Science and Technology. Today, we will explore the numerous ways that members of the Jamat in the United States participate in and contribute to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
"....what are the subjects which will be necessary tomorrow? Is the developing world going to continue in this deficit of knowledge? Or are we going to enable it to move forwards in to new areas of knowledge? My conviction is that we have to help these countries move into new areas of knowledge. And therefore, I think of areas such as the space sciences, such as the neurosciences. There are so many new areas of inquiry which, unless we make an effort to share globally, we will continue to have vast populations around the world who will continue in this knowledge deficit."
-Mawlana Hazar Imam, Investiture Ceremony as a Member of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Lisbon, 8 May 2009
Technology promises to make easy things that, by their intrinsic nature, have to be hard.
The story of the wildly exaggerated promises and damaging unintended consequences of technology isn’t exactly a new one. The real marvel is that it constantly seems to surprise us. Why?
Part of the reason is that we tend to forget that technology is only as good as the people who use it. We want it to elevate us; we tend to degrade it. In a better world, Twitter might have been a digital billboard of ideas and conversation ennobling the public square. We’ve turned it into the open cesspool of the American mind. Facebook was supposed to serve as a platform for enhanced human interaction, not a tool for the lonely to burrow more deeply into their own isolation.
It’s also true that Facebook and other Silicon Valley giants have sold themselves not so much as profit-seeking companies but as ideal-pursuing movements. Facebook’s mission is “to make the world more open and connected.” Tesla’s goal is “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.” Google’s mantra was “Don’t Be Evil,” at least until it quietly dropped the slogan earlier this year.
But the deeper reason that technology so often disappoints and betrays us is that it promises to make easy things that, by their intrinsic nature, have to be hard.
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