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An Internet Provider Is Selling an “Elite Gamer” Service

U.S. internet service provider (ISP) Cox Communications is offering a new tier of internet service called

Elite Gaming Internet

Internet service provider Cox Communications is offering a new tier of internet service called “Elite Gamer” for an additional $15 a month. The promise: low latency, which in gaming means less lag, for optimal gaming performance.

Cox Communications’ new offering is technically legal, but arguably flies in the face of the hotly debated subject of net neutrality, which was repealed in the United States in 2018. In essence, net neutrality is the act of treating all “lanes” or connections of data on the internet the same without giving certain connections a fast pass.

Lag Spikes

Cox’s FAQ says wants to offer the “fastest pass to your game server” by reducing “lag spikes” with its Elite Gamer tier internet. Anticipating the negative reactions from net neutrality supporters, Cox told Motherboard that its “Elite Gamer” offering does not “prioritize any traffic over others on our network,” or “alter speed in any way.”

If it doesn’t alter the speed or prioritize traffic, though, how is an “Elite Gamer” internet connection any different than any other? Americans are already paying hand over fist for internet, with very few options available, depending on location.

Cox has the opportunity to sell the service to a limited number of people in Arizona as part of a trial. It will then evaluate how to go forward from there, according to Motherboard.

READ MORE: This ISP Is Offering a ‘Fast Lane’ for Gamers…For $15 More Per Month

More on net neutrality: The Inventor of the Web Says It’s Broken and Net Neutrality Can Fix It

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An Internet Provider Is Selling an “Elite Gamer” Service

Expert Warns Against Forming Emotional Attachments With Robots

No matter how cute or emotionally-savvy some robots may seem, experts warn that it's an illusion. Artificial intelligence simply isn't that sophisticated.

Faking It

No matter how cute present-day robots are designed to look, no matter how smiley their virtual faces and chipper their beeps and boops, they will never love you back.

The stories of people mourning robots like Jibo, a smart home assistant that announced its own “death” when its servers were scheduled to get shut down last month, are heartwarming. But they also reveal a way, according to the Associated Press, that marketers could exploit the emotions of people — especially kids — by programming robots to seem more emotionally savvy than they really are.

Fast Friends

Humans will bond with seemingly anything, whether it’s a robotic vacuum cleaner that gets pitifully stuck in a corner or Jibo. But that’s because we tend to ascribe intention and consciousness to things that seem to act with purpose, experts told the AP.

“The performance of empathy is not empathy,” MIT AI researcher Sherry Turkle told the AP. “Simulated thinking might be thinking, but simulated feeling is never feeling. Simulated love is never love.”

When a robot does something adorable or seems to have genuine emotions, Turkle suggests that it’s all because of a human-written script — and unfortunately not the basis of a true friendship.

READ MORE: Be wary of robot emotions; ‘simulated love is never love’ [Associated Press]

More on cute robots: Discontinued Robot Assistant Announces Its Own Death

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Expert Warns Against Forming Emotional Attachments With Robots

Researcher: Facial Recognition Tech Could Get Trans People Killed

AI researcher Os Keyes envisions several

Deadly Deployment

Facial recognition technology is still in the nascent stages of development, and we’ve already seen many ways it can go wrong, from China using the tech to track and detain minorities to the numerous examples of it perpetuating racial and gender bias.

Now, in an expansive interview with VentureBeat, AI researcher Os Keyesat from the University of Washington has presented several “nightmare scenarios” for transgender people that could result from the deployment of facial recognition tech — and in some cases, they end with the person being killed.

Who’s There?

In the interview, Keyes noted how some apartment buildings are considering the use of facial recognition tech for entry — the idea is a resident would show their face, and the system would recognize them and unlock the door.

Keyes also pointed out how some people are even suggesting facial recognition systems be used to monitor bathrooms.

Keyes told VentureBeat that because some systems have trouble recognizing transgender or gender non-conforming people, they could be flagged, leading to law enforcement being called to the scene — and that could prove deadly for trans people, particularly those of color.

“To be exceedingly deadpan,” Keyes said, “the police’s record with trans people of color is not great, so yeah — the worst case scenario is someone tries to go to the bathroom because they just want to piss and they end up shot or arrested or harassed, or shot and then arrested and then harassed.”

No Good Use

Keyes isn’t just concerned about how facial recognition tech will affect the trans community, though. Another worry is that it doesn’t benefit any members of society enough to warrant further development.

“I would like to see facial recognition development and usage just made straight-up illegal because I don’t think this is a technology with redeeming features,” Keyes told VentureBeat. “Nobody has been able to point me to a use case that directly benefits humanity that can’t be solved with other means. It’s so obviously ripe for abuse and has already been [so] abused that it’s not worth doing.”

READ MORE: A transgender AI researcher’s nightmare scenarios for facial recognition software [VentureBeat]

More on facial recognition: Americans Built Tech for China’s Sinister “Re-Education Camps”

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Scientist: “Alien Life Now Seems Inevitable and Possibly Imminent”

A scientist argues that the sheer volume of potentially habitable planets and moons coupled with the existence of water in space makes life inevitable.

Playing The Odds

The cosmos are filled with roughly Earth-sized exoplanets. Various moons, comets, and planets have stores of water, organic molecules, and amino acids like those that make up life on Earth.

Cathal O’Donnell, a 3D bioprinting researcher at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, likes those odds — he argues in The Conversation that the abundance of potentially habitable worlds out there makes the discovery of extraterrestrial life “inevitable and possibly imminent.”

One In 40 Billion

O’Donnell argues that the sheer vastness of space and quantity of exoplanets orbiting in habitable zones — the sweet spots where they’re not too close nor too far from their star — makes the discovery of extraterrestrial life overwhelmingly likely, citing research that calculated that billions of such planets may exist.

And just because a planet doesn’t have a temperate climate doesn’t mean life couldn’t exist there — O’Donnell argues that terrestrial life can be found in Antarctica, in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, and other seemingly inhospitable settings.

Numbers Game

The fact remains that we’ve only encountered life in one place: Earth. But O’Donnell predicts that we’ll be able to probe for life in the near future.

“The ancient question ‘Are we alone?’ has graduated from being a philosophical musing to a testable hypothesis,” O’Donnell writes. “We should be prepared for an answer.”

READ MORE: Why the idea of alien life now seems inevitable and possibly imminent [The Conversation]

More on extraterrestrial life: The Scientist Who Reevaluated The Drake Equation Still Thinks Alien Life is Out There

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SpaceX-Like Startups Think They Can Solve Fusion For Cheap

SpaceX Moment

SpaceX has made rocket launches a whole lot cheaper. And now, according to industry experts who spoke to NBC News, fusion energy production could be next — with decades of scientific research to leverage, it could be startups that finally turn fusion energy into an affordable, commercially viable energy source.

“Fusion is poised for a ‘SpaceX moment,’” General Fusion CEO Christofer Mowry told NBC.

Fusion Synergy

It’s thanks to decades of government-funded research that these companies are able to do what they can do — a clear parallel to SpaceX, which built on years of state space exploration technology as well.

“Everything that the private companies have been able to do is built on the shoulders of giants,” Andrew Holland, executive director of the Fusion Industry Association, a DC-based group that represents 17 different fusion companies, told NBC.

Downscaling

Startups like General Fusion or Commonwealth Fusion Systems aren’t alone in their efforts to generate power from fusion. Several massive, internationally funded fusion reactors are under construction right now including the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor in France, which is designed to produce 500 megawatts bursts of power.

But startups are betting on smaller scale reactors. To get there, scientists are hoping technologies like superconductors, which could withstand extremely strong magnetic fields inside the reactor, could bring the tech into the realm of feasibility.

READ MORE: Fusion power start-ups go small in effort to bring commercial reactors to life [NBC News]

More on fusion: Scientists Just Got Amazing Results From an Old Fusion Reactor

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New Research: The World Is Sadder, Angrier Than Ever Before

People are experiencing higher levels of negative emotions such as sadness and anger, according to a survey of adults in more than 140 nations.

Looking Bleak

The world is not a happy place — at least, not according to the people living in it.

This week, analytics firm Gallup shared the results of a global survey designed to gauge the world’s emotional temperature. Their report suggests that people are sadder, angrier, and more worried than ever before recorded — findings that could have profound implications for global health.

Sad, Mad, and Worried

For its 2018 Global State of Emotions report, Gallup conducted more than 151,000 interviews with adults living in more than 140 countries. They asked survey respondents questions about how they felt the day prior, such as whether they smiled or laughed a lot, and whether they felt sadness or anger.

They found that the number of people who said they’d experienced anger increased by two percentage points over the previous year, while both worry and sadness increased by one percentage point — setting new record highs for all three negative emotions.

Physical Burden

Research has noted the impact negative feelings can have on a person’s physical health — studies have linked anger to an elevated risk of heart attack and stroke, while chronic worry and sadness can be signs of anxiety disorders and depression, which carry an increased risk of heart disease.

If people continue to experience these negative emotions in greater numbers, we could be headed toward a future in which the global population is increasingly unhealthy — a situation that carries its own troubling side effects.

READ MORE: The world is sadder and angrier than ever, major study finds [CNN]

More on sadness: Researchers Found What Sadness Looks Like in the Brain

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To Prevent the Apocalypse, MIT Says to Study “Machine Behaviour”

Researchers propose a new field of AI study called

Machine Behaviour

Computer scientists and engineers shouldn’t be the only people shaping the future of artificial intelligence, according to a group led by researchers from MIT’s Media Lab.

“We’re seeing the rise of machines with agency, machines that are actors making decisions and taking actions autonomously,” MIT’s Iyad Rahwan said in a blog post. “This calls for a new field of scientific study that looks at them not solely as products of engineering and computer science, but additionally as a new class of actors with their own behavioral patterns and ecology.”

Rahwan and colleagues call this new field “machine behaviour” — and it could ensure we reap the potential benefits of AI while avoiding the pitfalls.

Team Effort

On Thursday, the group published a paper in the journal Nature describing its vision for this new field of study.

They suggest that while experts in the fields of biology, economics, psychology, and beyond are studying AI, their work is taking place in “silos.” The hope is that giving a name to the wider field of AI research will help forge connections between these currently disparate explorations of the tech.

The more people we have working together in the field of AI, in other words, the more likely we are to understand how AIs behave and their potential impact on the world. And that, as the authors write in their paper, “is essential to our ability to control their actions, reap their benefits, and minimize their harms.”

READ MORE: Studying the behavior of AI [MIT Media Lab]

More on AI: Expert: To Understand an Algorithm, Treat It Like an Animal

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To Prevent the Apocalypse, MIT Says to Study “Machine Behaviour”

Meet the Rabbi Fighting Back Against AI Armageddon

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wants to make sure that AI is built to serve, not conquer humanity, and wants to make sure important choices aren't automated.

Human Choices

A prominent rabbi wants to make sure that artificial intelligence never takes important choices out of human hands.

“The development of AI has the potential to be the source of enormous blessing for our world by augmenting human capacity, and not by replacing it,” Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi in the Commonwealth, said on BBC Radio, per Jewish News. “But it is imperative that this technology be harnessed to serve us, rather than the reverse.”

Mirvis echoes the sentiments of many other prominent thought leaders who are troubled by the rise of AI technology — and the lack of meaningful discussion about what decisions and aspects of life ought to remain untouched by it.

Final Battle

Mirvis warned listeners of “a desperate struggle for control between artificial intelligence and its creators” — though it bears mentioning that artificial intelligence, for all its wonders, is far away from being able to do any sort of world dominating.

Others have argued that the dangers posed by AI come from mass unemployment as more companies decide to automate their workforces or when governments decide to build autonomous weapons.

“I am troubled,” Mirvis said. “What happens when soulless artificial intelligence, devoid of feeling or emotion, is called upon to make moral or ethical choices on our behalf?”

READ MORE: The crucial fight for control between AI and its creators [Jewish News]

More on conscious AI: Artificial Consciousness: How To Give A Robot A Soul

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Oxford Academic: Invisible Aliens Are Breeding With Humans

In his new book, Oxford professor Young-hae Chi theorizes that invisible aliens are creating alien-human hybrids, perhaps as a response to climate change.

Invisible Aliens

An Oxford lecturer thinks we share the Earth with invisible aliens — and, the outlandish idea holds, they’re trying to save our species and theirs from total destruction by breeding with us.

This strange theory is the subject of Korean instructor Young-hae Chi’s new book, which is written in Korean but roughly translates to “Alien Visitations and the End of Humanity” — and while its contents are objectively bizarre, its proximity to the highest tiers of academia could demonstrate just how desperate some are for a solution to Earth’s climate woes.

Human Hybrids

In an interview with The Oxford Student, Chi shared some of the highlights from the book — including his belief that, because these invisible extraterrestrials live among us, they have a stake in avoiding planetary destruction due to climate change.

He theorizes that the hypothetical aliens’ interbreeding with humans could be intended to create a hybrid species capable of surviving future climate conditions on Earth, or that the aliens are “producing these hybrids as a problem-solver, a future leader.”

Desperate Times

Chi doesn’t provide any examples of the “evidence” he claims supports his theory in the interview, and it’s hard to imagine the book itself contains anything terribly concrete.

Still, the fact that someone as highly educated as Chi wrote an entire book based on salvation by extraterrestrials could be a sign of how daunting our future is starting to look.

READ MORE: Oxford Professor Argues Invisible Aliens Are Interbreeding With Humans [The Oxford Student]

More on aliens: Scientist: “Alien Life Now Seems Inevitable and Possibly Imminent”

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Leak: Motorola’s Folding Phone Looks Like an Old-School Flip Phone

New images appeared in a since-deleted post on Chinese social media network Weibo of Motorola's upcoming folding RAZR smartphone.

Flip Out

The Verge reports that new images have leaked on Chinese social media of Motorola’s folding phone, the RAZR V4.

We don’t know much about the hotly anticipated device yet. But we do know that the RAZR V4 will likely fold vertically like a traditional flip phone rather than horizontally like Samsung’s delayed Galaxy Fold — a smartphone that uses folding to become even smaller, in other words, rather than a tablet that can fit in your pocket.

Nostalgia Sells

But is this really the revival of the popular RAZR flip phones that were first introduced in 2004? Patents filed back in January seem to support the idea that the leaked images could in fact be Motorola’s upcoming design. The Wall Street Journal previously suggested it will go on sale for $1,500.

It’s arguably not the best time to release a folding device meant for everyday consumers. Review units of Samsung’s folding tablet broke earlier this month after only a single dNotificationsay of testing, thanks to a fragile hinge design and a mysterious protective layer covering the device’s screen. Samsung has since delayed the launch of the device, admitting that it “needs further improvements.”

READ MORE: Motorola’s vertically folding RAZR shown in leaked renders [The Verge]

More on folding phones: Samsung Admits Its Folding Smartphone “Needs Further Improvements”

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DARPA: This Smart Contact Lens Could Give Soldiers Superpowers

Contact High

French engineering school IMT Atlantique revealed what it calls “the first stand-alone contact lens with a flexible micro battery” earlier this month.

And, notably, it caught the attention of the U.S. military’s attention: the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is reportedly interested in the contact lens to augment troops’ visual capabilities in the field, according to Task and Purpose — meaning the gadget could represent the augmented contact lens that DARPA has spent a decade searching for.

Weird Flex

The biggest challenge that IMT Atlantique engineers encountered was to scale down the battery. But thanks to a newly developed flexible micro battery, they found a way to continuously light an LED light source for “several hours,” according to a press release.

The release also suggests that “graphene-based flexible electronics” could further enhance the smart contact lens’ capabilities. Applications could range from assisting surgeons in the operating room to helping out drivers on the road.

Enhanced Recon

And now the military wants in on the project as well. French business magazine l’Usine Nouvelle writes that DARPA is interested in the technology. Even tech giant Microsoft is ready to invest two million euros, according to the magazine — which is notable, considering the tech company’s recent HoloLens contract with the U.S. Army.

“All the elements are ready,” Jean-Louis Bougrenet de la Tocnaye, project lead at IMT Atlantique, told l’Usine Nouvelle, as translated from the original French. “We should integrate it in October 2019 and hope to start testing in 2020. Then we will be able to go to the qualifying clinical tests.”

READ MORE: DARPA is Eyeing a High-Tech Contact Lens Straight Out of ‘Mission: Impossible’ [The National Interest]

More on smart contact lenses: DARPA: We’re Moving to Merge Humans and Machines

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Whale Suspected of Being a Russian Weapon Found in Norway

The group of fishermen in Norway found a whale wearing a strange harness with the words

Military Mammal

In 2017, Zvezda, a TV station owned by Russia’s Defence Ministry, reported that the nation’s military was training white whales, seals, and dolphins for Arctic missions — and now it seems one of those recruits may be guilty of desertion.

A group of fishers recently told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that they found a white beluga whale wearing a strange harness with the words “Equipment of St. Petersburg” written on its strap — a clue that the animal may have had a role to play in Russia’s futuristic military plans.

Saying “Hi”

According to the fishers, the whale had been harassing their boats, rubbing against the vessels and pulling on accessible straps and ropes. When they removed its strange harness, which appeared designed to hold a camera or weapon, they saw the message written on it.

“We know that in Russia they have had domestic whales in captivity and also that some of these have apparently been released,” Audun Rikardsen, a marine biology professor at the Arctic University of Norway, told NRK, according to The Guardian. “Then they often seek out boats.”

But when Rikardsen reached out to Russian researchers to try to find who owned the whale, they denied having anything to do with it.

“They tell me that most likely is the Russian navy in Murmansk,” Rikardsen told NRK.

READ MORE: Whale with harness could be Russian weapon, say Norwegian experts [The Guardian]

More on Russia’s military: Russia Says “Super Soldiers” Can Crash Computers With Telepathy

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The Universe Might Be a Billion Years Younger Than We Thought

To reconcile the recently-confirmed, faster rate of universal expansion, researchers suggest that the cosmos may be younger than they previously assumed.

New Answers

New data from the Hubble Space Telescope confirms that the universe is expanding nine percent more rapidly than theoretical calculations predicted.

Those original calculations were based on data from the early universe, so many scientists suspected that something sped up the works. But the new Hubble data suggests that the universe could be substantially younger than previously believed — perhaps by as much as a billion years, according to the Associated Press.

Count The Rings

“It’s looking more and more like we’re going to need something new to explain this,” Johns Hopkins University astronomer Adam Riess told The AP.

Original calculations suggested that the universe is between 13.6 and 13.8 billion years old. If Riess’ hunch is correct, it would mean that it’s only somewhere between 12.5 to 13 billion years old.

“Hey, it’s good news,” Reiss told the news agency. “Everybody likes to look younger.”

Whodunnit

There’s a chance that Riess’ explanation is incorrect and something actually sped up the acceleration of the universe at some point in the last dozen billion years. One potential culprit might be dark energy, but thus far scientists haven’t been able to directly confirm that theory.

NASA astrophysicist John Mather told the AP that there are two extant possibilities: “1. We’re making mistakes we can’t find yet. 2. Nature has something we can’t find yet.”

READ MORE: New study says universe expanding faster and is younger [The Associated Press]

More on the expanding universe: Hubble Data: The Universe is Expanding Faster and Faster

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The Universe Might Be a Billion Years Younger Than We Thought

No One Knows Who Owns This Massive Database of Americans’ Info

Hactivists have found a database containing details on more than 80 million U.S. households, but they have no idea who owns it.

Millions Exposed

A pair of hacktivists have discovered an unsecured database containing details about more than 80 million households in the United States.

Typically, they’d alert a database’s owner to such a discovery so that they could shore up their security, but in this case no one can figure out who the massive database belongs to — meaning the data of nearly 65 percent of America households is still exposed.

Detailed Description

Hacktivists Noam Rotem and Ran Locar found the 24 GB database hosted on a Microsoft cloud server while conducting research as part of a partnership with VPNmentor.

According to their report, the database includes addresses, full names, ages, and birth dates — as well as coded information they believe correlates to gender, marital status, income, homeowner status, and the type of home they live in.

Thankfully, it doesn’t contain passwords or social security numbers.

Owner TBD

The researchers believe the database belongs to a service of some sort because each entry ends with “member_code” and “score,” but they aren’t sure what that service might be. They did note that no one listed is under the age of 40, so they suspect it might be the work of an insurance or healthcare company.

The researchers are now asking anyone who might have information on the owner to contact them, so that they can ensure the information is secured.

“I wouldn’t like my data to be exposed like this,” Rotem told CNET. “It should not be there.”

READ MORE: Exposed Database Reveals Details on Over 80 Million US Households [CNET]

More on the cloud: Google Will Soon Bring a Blockchain-Like System to the Cloud

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Scientists Plan to 3D Print Muscular Tissue on the Space Station

Space Medicine

The International Space Station is rapidly becoming a hotbed of biomedical research. One example: a 3D printer that scientists have been using to manufacture biological tissue while in orbit.

Now the printer is scheduled for upgrades that will allow it to manufacture more complex types of tissue, including muscles and blood vessels, according to 3D Printing Industry — pushing the cutting edge of medical research that could make deep space exploration possible.

Stocking Up

In September 2019, the Russian biotech lab 3D Bioprinting Solutions will ship the raw biomaterials necessary to print out muscle tissues up to the ISS.

It’s easier to print out organs in space than on Earth, where they’re more likely to collapse under their own weight. In this case, 3D Printing Industry reports that the muscles, blood vessels, and other complex tissues that the Russian scientists plan to print will stay in space, where they will be examined over time to help reveal the long-term effects of space travel on the human body.

READ MORE: RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS PLAN 3D BIOPRINTING EXPERIMENTS ABOARD THE ISS IN COLLABORATION WITH THE U.S. AND ISRAEL [3D Printing Industry]

More on space 3D bioprinting: Here’s Why NASA Wants to 3D Print Human Hearts in Space

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Scientists Plan to 3D Print Muscular Tissue on the Space Station

These Professors Are Arguing That AI Should Get Animal Rights

Right now, AI can't be considered conscious. But should it someday get to that point, some experts argue we should lay out algorithms' civil rights now.

Weak AI

Today’s artificial intelligence algorithms are unfeeling tools that can automate various jobs. It’s possible, though, that someday we’ll figure out how to build AI with something resembling a conscious experience.

In preparation for that day, a pair of philosophy professors from Northeastern University and UC Riverside are arguing that we need to lay out ground rules now — suggesting in an article for Aeon that AI algorithms may someday deserve the same ethical treatment as animals.

Planning Ahead

As it stands, AI is nowhere near advanced enough to experience anything, including suffering. Kicking your Roomba won’t do anything other than maybe put you in the market for a new vacuum; insulting Alexa won’t make the smart assistant resent you.

But given humanity’s poor track record of animal and human welfare in scientific research, it may make sense to be prepared in case AI ever reaches that level. That’s why the two professors call for new oversight committees to evaluate the ethical risks of research as the field develops.

“In the case of research on animals and even on human subjects, appropriate protections were established only after serious ethical transgressions came to light (for example, in needless vivisections, the Nazi medical war crimes, and the Tuskegee syphilis study),” the professors write. “With AI, we have a chance to do better.”

READ MORE: AIs should have the same ethical protections as animals [Aeon]

More on consciousness: Artificial Consciousness: How To Give A Robot A Soul

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These Professors Are Arguing That AI Should Get Animal Rights

In 50 Years, Dead People Will Make up Most of Facebook’s Users

A new study says that based on Facebook's current numbers, dead people's accounts will outnumber the living in about 50 years.

Friends Forever

While Facebook recently announced new features to better memorialize the accounts of deceased users, they’re still taking up server space — and by 2070, they may outnumber the number of living people on the platform.

Imagining Facebook 50 years from now is admittedly speculative, but the site’s growing digital graveyard raises questions about how we ought to treat digital history and respect the deceased’s personal information.

Balancing Act

The 50-year prediction comes from a new study published last week in the journal Big Data & Society, which plotted Facebook’s growth trends against the U.N.’s projected global mortality rates.

Eventually, time comes for us all. The team of Oxford researchers found that even if nobody new joined Facebook after 2018, the site would still house 1.4 billion dead users by 2100.

Now What?

That’s a lot of memorialized pages, and the researchers argue that they could hold historical significance.

“Facebook should invite historians, archivists, archaeologists and ethicists to participate in the process of curating the vast volume of accumulated data that we leave behind as we pass away,” said Oxford researcher David Watson in a university-published press release. “This is not just about finding solutions that will be sustainable for the next couple of years, but possibly for many decades ahead.”

READ MORE: The dead may outnumber the living on Facebook within 50 years [University of Oxford newsroom via Phys.org]

More on the digital afterlife: The Digital Afterlife is Open for Business. But It Needs Rules.

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In 50 Years, Dead People Will Make up Most of Facebook’s Users

When This Asteroid Zips by Earth, Scientists May Hitch a Ride

In 2029, the asteroid 99942 Apophis will fly past Earth close enough to look like a shooting star. NASA is planning ahead to learn as much as possible.

Flyby

In about ten years, a 1,100 foot asteroid named 99942 Apophis will pass within 19,000 miles of the Earth — closer than some of our more distantly-orbiting satellites.

Scientists have already ruled out any chance of a collision; the asteroid will look like a bright shooting star to people on Earth. But the rare near-Earth trajectory already has scientists planning how best to study the impending visitor.

Celestial Threats

On Tuesday, astronomers will meet to discuss the possibility of sending a spacecraft out to meet Apophis as it sails by, according to a NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) press release.

The meeting will be part of the ongoing 2019 Planetary Defense Conference, where scientists are discussing possible ways to detect and prevent celestial threats to Earth.

Jam-Packed

Apophis gives researchers a goldmine of possible discoveries, so they want to take full advantage by planning missions that will reveal how Earth’s gravity affects Apophis’ trajectory, spin, and surface features. These findings will be valuable on their own, but could also protect us from future collisions.

“Apophis is a representative of about 2,000 currently known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids,” Paul Chodas, director of the JPL division that studies near-Earth objects, said in the press release. “By observing Apophis during its 2029 flyby, we will gain important scientific knowledge that could one day be used for planetary defense.”

READ MORE: Scientists planning now for asteroid flyby a decade away [Jet Propulsion Laboratory newsroom via Phys.org]

More on asteroids: The European Space Agency Will LiveTweet a Mock Asteroid Impact

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When This Asteroid Zips by Earth, Scientists May Hitch a Ride

“BioSolar Leaf” Tech Will Pull Pollution from London Air

British startup Arborea will test the ability of its

Dual Purpose

British startup Arborea is launching a pilot project on an Imperial College London campus to test out its “BioSolar Leaf” technology.

The first-of-its-kind system uses microscopic plants to remove pollution from the air while simultaneously producing food ingredients — meaning it could not only help fight carbon emissions, but address hunger in the process.

Plant Power

Arborea’s system involves growing microscopic plants, such as microalgae or phytoplankton, on solar panel-like structures that can be installed practically anywhere solar panels would go.

With photosynthesis, these plants remove carbon dioxide from the air while generating oxygen. According to the startup’s website, just one acre of their system does as much to clean the air as 100 acres of trees.

Two Birds

Cleaning the air is just one benefit of the BioSolar Leaf technology, though — the microscopic plants also produce an organic protein that Arborea extracts and uses to create plant-based food products.

“This pilot plant will produce sustainable healthy food additives while purifying the air, producing oxygen, and removing carbon dioxide from the surrounding environment,” Arborea CEO Julian Melchiorri said in a news release. “It will provide the opportunity to fully harness Arborea’s BioSolar Leaf dual action in real operating conditions and help to unlock the technology’s full potential.”

READ MORE: World’s first ‘BioSolar Leaf’ to tackle air pollution in White City [Imperial College London]

More on air pollution: A Houseplant With Rabbit DNA Could Purify the Air in Your Home

The post “BioSolar Leaf” Tech Will Pull Pollution from London Air appeared first on Futurism.

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“BioSolar Leaf” Tech Will Pull Pollution from London Air

The Mueller Report Confirms We’re Living in a Cyberpunk Dystopia

The Mueller Report, heavily redacted, describes a number of high-tech Russian operations designed to undermine and sway the 2016 Presidential election.

Harm to Ongoing Matter

When the Justice Department released a heavily-redacted version of the Mueller Report Thursday, the conversation quickly devolved into partisan bickering.

Only time will tell what the report means for the Trump administration. But what’s immediately clear is that concepts that were once restricted to fictional cyberpunk dystopias — from government hackers to botnet propaganda networks — are now mainstream enough to influence international politics.

Black Boxes

The readable text of the report details how Russia used social media, hackers, and other sophisticated techniques to try and sway the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in favor of Trump — efforts that reached millions of Americans and recruited others to actively spread their propaganda before and after the election.

Russians working for an organization called the Internet Research Agency created accounts on Twitter and Facebook, through which they reached millions — including many members of the Trump Administration, Trump’s sons, and Trump himself — while sharing pro-Trump and anti-Clinton messages, memes, and images.

Personal Privacy

Meanwhile, other Russian operatives were taking a more direct approach — by hacking into Democratic Party servers, releasing sensitive information though sock puppet personas like “DCLeaks” and “Guccifer” and giving stolen data to WikiLeaks. Just to make the whole thing a little more “Shadowrun,” they funded the operation by mining Bitcoin.

In the long view, the report might be less memorable for its specific claims than as a blueprint for the future of information warfare — and the strange ways technology can be used to manipulate and control populations.

READ MORE: Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election [CNN]

More on Mueller: Everything You Need to Know From Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional Testimony: Day 1

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The Mueller Report Confirms We’re Living in a Cyberpunk Dystopia


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