Futurist | Define Futurist at Dictionary.com

The documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer opens with this quote by the futurist Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.

The best way to do this, he argues, is through an adhocracy, a term he borrows from the writer and futurist Alvin Toffler.

James P. Othmer is the author of ADLAND: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet and the novel THE FUTURIST.

James P. Othmer is the author of ADLAND: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet and the novel The Futurist.

James P. Othmer is the author of ADLAND: Searching for the Meaning of Life on a Branded Planet and the novel The Futurist .

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Futurist | Define Futurist at Dictionary.com

Futurist – Wikipedia

Futurists or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose specialty is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general.

The term “futurist” most commonly refers to people who attempt to predict the future (sometimes called trend analysis) such as authors, consultants, thinkers, organizational leaders and others who engage in interdisciplinary and systems thinking to advise private and public organizations on such matters as diverse global trends, possible scenarios, emerging market opportunities and risk management. Futurist is not in the sense of the art movement futurism.

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the earliest use of the term futurism in English as 1842, to refer, in a theological context, to the Christian eschatological tendency of that time. The next recorded use is the label adopted by the Italian and Russian Futurists, the artistic, literary and political movements of the 1920s and 1930s which sought to reject the past and fervently embrace speed, technology, and often violent change.

There are a number of organizations that specialize in this field including the World Future Society.

Visionary writers such as Jules Verne, Edward Bellamy, and H.G.Wells were not in their day characterized as futurists. The term futurology in its contemporary sense was first coined in the mid1940s by the German Professor Ossip K. Flechtheim, who proposed a new science of probability. Flechtheim argued that even if systematic forecasting did no more than unveil the subset of statistically highly probable processes of change and charted their advance, it would still be of crucial social value.[1]

In the mid1940s the first professional “futurist” consulting institutions like RAND and SRI began to engage in long-range planning, systematic trend watching, scenario development, and visioning, at first under World WarII military and government contract and, beginning in the 1950s, for private institutions and corporations. The period from the late 1940s to the mid1960s laid the conceptual and methodological foundations of the modern futures studies field. Bertrand de Jouvenel’s The Art of Conjecture in 1963 and Dennis Gabor’s Inventing the Future in 1964 are considered key early works, and the first U.S.university course devoted entirely to the future was taught by the late Alvin Toffler at the New School in 1966.[2]

More generally, the label includes such disparate lay, professional, and academic groups as visionaries, foresight consultants, corporate strategists, policy analysts, cultural critics, planners, marketers, forecasters, prediction market developers, roadmappers, operations researchers, investment managers, actuaries, and other risk analyzers, and future-oriented individuals educated in every academic discipline, including anthropology, complexity studies, computer science, economics, engineering, urban design, evolutionary biology, history, management, mathematics, philosophy, physical sciences, political science, psychology, sociology, systems theory, technology studies, trend analysis, and other disciplines.

“Futures studies”sometimes referred to as futurology, futures research, and foresightcan be summarized as being concerned with “three P’s and a W”, i.e. “possible, probable, and preferable” futures, plus “wildcards”, which are low-probability, high-impact events, should they occur. Even with high-profile, probable events, such as the fall of telecommunications costs, the growth of the internet, or the aging demographics of particular countries, there is often significant uncertainty in the rate or continuation of a trend. Thus, a key part of futures analysis is the managing of uncertainty and risk.[3]

Not all futurists engage in the practice of futurology as generally defined. Pre-conventional futurists (see below) would generally not. And while religious futurists, astrologers, occultists, New Age diviners, etc. use methodologies that include study, none of their personal revelation or belief-based work would fall within a consensus definition of futurology as used in academics or by futures studies professionals.

Several authors have become recognized as futurists. They research trends, particularly in technology, and write their observations, conclusions, and predictions. In earlier eras, many futurists were at academic institutions. John McHale, author of The Future of the Future, published a “Futures Directory”, and directed a think tank called The Centre For Integrative Studies at a university. Futurists have started consulting groups or earn money as speakers, with examples including Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt and Patrick Dixon. Frank Feather is a business speaker that presents himself as a pragmatic futurist. Some futurists have commonalities with science fiction, and some science-fiction writers, such as Arthur C. Clarke,[4] are known as futurists.[citation needed] In the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin distinguished futurists from novelists, writing of the study as the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurists. In her words, “a novelist’s business is lying”.

A survey of 108 futurists[5] found the following shared assumptions:

The term has also been used to refer to popular electronic music acts who emerged in the 1970s, such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and The Human League.[6][7]

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Futurist – Wikipedia

Glen Hiemstra – Futurist Speaker, Consultant and Author …

What Is Futurist.com?

Futurist.com is an international consultancy focused on long-range future trends and on strategies and techniques for shaping the preferred future. Our commitment is to a greater understanding of and enthusiasm about the future and future-related subjects.

Founder of Futurist.com, Glen is an internationally respected expert on future trends, long-range planning and creating the preferred future. An inspiring and deeply experienced voice among futurists, Glen has advised professional, business, and governmental organizations for over two decades.

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Glen Hiemstra – Futurist Speaker, Consultant and Author …

Futurist – definition of futurist by The Free Dictionary

1. A belief that the meaning of life and one’s personal fulfillment lie in the future and not in the present or past.

2. An artistic movement originating in Italy around 1910 whose aim was to express the energetic, dynamic, and violent quality of contemporary life, especially as embodied in the motion and force of modern machinery.

3. Christianity A belief that biblical prophecies, especially those contained in the book of Revelation, will be literally fulfilled at some point in the future.

futurist n.

n.

1. (sometimes cap.) a follower of futurism.

3. futuristic.

[183545;

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:

Translations

1. (esp US) (= futurologist) futurlogo/a m/f

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Futurist – definition of futurist by The Free Dictionary

A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

Stand Up Guy

For 10 years, Roy Palmer had no feeling in his lower extremities. Two days after receiving a stem cell transplant, he cried tears of joy because he could feel a cramp in his leg.

The technical term for the procedure the British man underwent is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). And while risky, it’s offering new hope to people like Palmer, who found himself wheelchair-bound after multiple sclerosis (MS) caused his immune system to attack his nerves’ protective coverings.

Biological Reboot

Ever hear the IT troubleshooting go-to of turning a system off and on again to fix it? The HSCT process is similar, but instead of a computer, doctors attempt to reboot a patient’s immune system.

To do this, they first remove stem cells from the patient’s body. Then the patient undergoes chemotherapy, which kills the rest of their immune system. After that, the doctors use the extracted stem cells to reboot the patient’s immune system.

It took just two days for the treatment to restore some of the feeling in Palmer’s legs. Eventually, he was able to walk on his own and even dance. He told the BBC in a recent interview that he now feels like he has a second chance at life.

“We went on holiday, not so long ago, to Turkey. I walked on the beach,” said Palmer. “Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.”

Risk / Reward

Still, HSCT isn’t some miracle cure for MS. Though it worked for Palmer, that’s not always the case, and HSCT can also cause infections and infertility. The National MS Society still considers HSCT to be an experimental treatment, and the Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the therapy in the U.S.

However, MS affects more than 2.3 million people, and if a stem cell transplant can help even some of those folks the way it helped Palmer, it’s a therapy worth exploring.

READ MORE: Walking Again After Ten Years With MS [BBC]

More on HCST: New Breakthrough Treatment Could “Reverse Disability” for MS Patients

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A Stem Cell Transplant Let a Wheelchair-Bound Man Dance Again

AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Nightmare Fuel

Someone programmed an AI to dream up Halloween masks, and the results are absolute nightmare fuel. Seriously, just look at some of these things.

“What’s so scary or unsettling about it is that it’s not so detailed that it shows you everything,” said Matt Reed, the creator of the masks, in an interview with New Scientist. “It leaves just enough open for your imagination to connect the dots.”

A selection of masks featured on Reed’s twitter. Credit: Matt Reed/Twitter

Creative Horror

To create the masks, Reed — whose day job is as a technologist at a creative agency called redpepper — fed an open source AI tool 5,000 pictures of Halloween masks he sourced from Google Images. He then instructed the tool to generate its own masks.

The fun and spooky project is yet another sign that AI is coming into its own as a creative tool. Just yesterday, a portrait generated by a similar system fetched more than $400,000 at a prominent British auction house.

And Reed’s masks are evocative. Here at the Byte, if we looked through the peephole and saw one of these on a trick or treater, we might not open our door.

READ MORE: AI Designed These Halloween Masks and They Are Absolutely Terrifying [New Scientist]

More on AI-generated art: Generated Art Will Go on Sale Alongside Human-Made Works This Fall

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AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

Over and Over

“The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding.”

That’s what Olympic attendees will hear ad nauseam when they step onto the platforms of Tokyo’s train stations in 2020. The source: Perseusbot, a robot security guard Japanese developers unveiled to the press on Thursday.

Observe and Report

According to reporting by Kyodo News, the purpose of the AI-powered Perseusbot is to lower the burden on the stations’ staff when visitors flood Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.

The robot is roughly 5.5 feet tall and equipped with security cameras that allow it to note suspicious behaviors, such as signs of violence breaking out or unattended packages, as it autonomous patrols the area. It can then alert security staff to the issues by sending notifications directly to their smart phones.

Prior Prepration

Just like the athletes who will head to Tokyo in 2020, Perseusbot already has a training program in the works — it’ll patrol Tokyo’s Seibu Shinjuku Station from November 26 to 30. This dry run should give the bot’s developers a chance to work out any kinks before 2020.

If all goes as hoped, the bot will be ready to annoy attendees with its incessant chant before the Olympic torch is lit. And, you know, keep everyone safe, too.

READ MORE: Robot Station Security Guard Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics [Kyodo News]

More robot security guards: Robot Security Guards Are Just the Beginning

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Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Snap Decisions

On first glance, a site that collects people’s opinions about whose life an autonomous car should favor doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. But look closer, and you’ll catch a glimpse of humanity’s dark side.

The Moral Machine is an online survey designed by MIT researchers to gauge how the public would want an autonomous car to behave in a scenario in which someone has to die. It asks questions like: “If an autonomous car has to choose between killing a man or a woman, who should it kill? What if the woman is elderly but the man is young?”

Essentially, it’s a 21st century update on the Trolley Problem, an ethical thought experiment no doubt permanently etched into the mind of anyone who’s seen the second season of “The Good Place.”

Ethical Dilemma

The MIT team launched the Moral Machine in 2016, and more than two million people from 233 countries participated in the survey — quite a significant sample size.

On Wednesday, the researchers published the results of the experiment in the journal Nature, and they really aren’t all that surprising: Respondents value the life of a baby over all others, with a female child, male child, and pregnant woman following closely behind. Yawn.

It’s when you look at the other end of the spectrum — the characters survey respondents were least likely to “save” — that you’ll see something startling: Survey respondents would rather the autonomous car kill a human criminal than a dog.

moral machine
Image Credit: MIT

Ugly Reflection

While the team designed the survey to help shape the future of autonomous vehicles, it’s hard not to focus on this troubling valuing of a dog’s life over that of any human, criminal or not. Does this tell us something important about how society views the criminal class? Reveal that we’re all monsters when hidden behind the internet’s cloak of anonymity? Confirm that we really like dogs?

The MIT team doesn’t address any of these questions in their paper, and really, we wouldn’t expect them to — it’s their job to report the survey results, not extrapolate some deeper meaning from them. But whether the Moral Machine informs the future of autonomous vehicles or not, it’s certainly held up a mirror to humanity’s values, and we do not like the reflection we see.

READ MORE: Driverless Cars Should Spare Young People Over Old in Unavoidable Accidents, Massive Survey Finds [Motherboard]

More on the Moral Machine: MIT’s “Moral Machine” Lets You Decide Who Lives & Dies in Self-Driving Car Crashes

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People Would Rather a Self-Driving Car Kill a Criminal Than a Dog

Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Space Elevator

It takes a lot of energy to put stuff in space. That’s why one longtime futurist dream is a “space elevator” — a long cable strung between a geostationary satellite and the Earth that astronauts could use like a dumbwaiter to haul stuff up into orbit.

The problem is that such a system would require an extraordinarily light, strong cable. Now, researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University say they’ve developed a carbon nanotube fiber so sturdy and lightweight that it could be used to build an actual space elevator.

Going Up

The researchers published their paper in May, but it’s now garnering the attention of their peers. Some believe the Tsinghua team’s material really could lead to the creation of an elevator that would make it cheaper to move astronauts and materials into space.

“This is a breakthrough,” colleague Wang Changqing, who studies space elevators at Northwestern Polytechnical University, told the South China Morning Post.

Huge If True

There are still countless galling technical problems that need to be overcome before a space elevator would start to look plausible. Wang pointed out that it’d require tens of thousands of kilometers of the new material, for instance, as well as a shield to protect it from space debris.

But the research brings us one step closer to what could be a true game changer: a vastly less expensive way to move people and spacecraft out of Earth’s gravity.

READ MORE: China Has Strongest Fibre That Can Haul 160 Elephants – and a Space Elevator? [South China Morning Post]

More on space elevators: Why Space Elevators Could Be the Future of Space Travel

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Scientists Say New Material Could Hold up an Actual Space Elevator

Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

Quake Rate

Earlier this year, I interviewed U.S. Geological Survey geologist Annemarie Baltay for a story about why it’s incredibly difficult to predict earthquakes.

“We don’t use that ‘p word’ — ‘predict’ — at all,” she told me. “Earthquakes are chaotic. We don’t know when or where they’ll occur.”

Neural Earthwork

That could finally be starting to change, according to a fascinating feature in The New York Times.

By feeding seismic data into a neural network — a type of artificial intelligence that learns to recognize patterns by scrutinizing examples — researchers say they can now predict moments after a quake strikes how far its aftershocks will travel.

And eventually, some believe, they’ll be able to listen to signals from fault lines and predict when an earthquake will strike in the first place.

Future Vision

But like Baltay, some researchers aren’t convinced we’ll ever be able to predict earthquakes.University of Tokyo seismologist Robert Geller told the Times that until an algorithm actually predicts an upcoming quake, he’ll remain skeptical.

“There are no shortcuts,” he said. “If you cannot predict the future, then your hypothesis is wrong.”

READ MORE: A.I. Is Helping Scientist Predict When and Where the Next Big Earthquake Will Be [The New York Times]

More on earthquake AI: A New AI Detected 17 Times More Earthquakes Than Traditional Methods

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Scientists Are Hopeful AI Could Help Predict Earthquakes

You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

Please, Santa?

It’s never too early to start writing your Christmas wish list, right? Because we know what’s now at the top of ours: a hoverbike.

We’ve had our eyes on Hoversurf’s Scorpion-3 since early last year — but now, the Russian drone start-up is accepting preorders on an updated version of the vehicle.

Flying Bike

The S3 2019 is part motorcycle and part quadcopter. According to the Hoversurf website, the battery-powered vehicle weighs 253 pounds and has a flight time of 10 to 25 minutes depending on operator weight. Its maximum legal speed is 60 mph — though as for how fast the craft can actually move, that’s unknown. Hoversurf also notes that the vehicle’s “safe flight altitude” is 16 feet, but again, we aren’t sure how high it can actually soar.

What we do know: The four blades that provide S3 with its lift spin at shin level, and while this certainly looks like it would be a safety hazard, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration approved the craft for legal use as an ultralight vehicle in September.

That means you can only operate an S3 for recreational or sports purposes — but you can’t cruise to work on your morning commute.

Plummeting Bank Account

You don’t need a pilot’s license to operate an S3, but you will need a decent amount of disposable income — the Star Wars-esque craft will set you back $150,000.

If that number doesn’t cause your eyes to cross, go ahead and slap down the $10,000 deposit needed to claim a spot in the reservation queue. You’ll then receive an email when it’s time to to place your order. You can expect to receive your S3 2019 two to six months after that, according to the company website.

That means there’s a pretty good chance you won’t be able to hover around your front yard this Christmas morning, but a 2019 jaunt is a genuine possibility.

READ MORE: For $150,000 You Can Now Order Your Own Hoverbike [New Atlas]

More on Hoversurf: Watch the World’s First Rideable Hoverbike in Flight

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You Can Now Preorder a $150,000 Hoverbike

FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Ups and Downs

Can we please get off Mr. Musk’s Wild Ride now? We don’t know how much more of this Tesla rollercoaster we can take.

In 2018 alone, Elon Musk’s clean energy company has endured a faulty flufferbot, furious investors, and an SEC probe and settlement. But there was good news, too. Model 3 deliveries reportedly increased, and just this week, we found out that Tesla had a historic financial quarter, generating $312 million in profit.

And now we’re plummeting again.

Closing In

On Friday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is deepening a criminal probe into whether Tesla “misstated information about production of its Model 3 sedans and misled investors about the company’s business going back to early 2017.”

We’ve known about the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe since September 18, but this is the first report confirming that Model 3 production is at the center of the investigation.

According to the WSJ’s sources, FBI agents have been reaching out to former Tesla employees in recent weeks to ask if they’d be willing to testify in the criminal case, though no word yet on whether any have agreed.

Casual CEO

We might be having trouble keeping up with these twists and turns, but Musk seems to be taking the FBI’s Tesla criminal probe all in stride — he spent much of Friday afternoon joking around with his Twitter followers about dank memes.

Clearly he has the stomach for this, but it’d be hard to blame any Tesla investors for deciding they’d had enough.

READ MORE: Tesla Faces Deepening Criminal Probe Over Whether It Misstated Production Figures [The Wall Street Journal]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk Says Your Tesla Will Earn You Money While You Sleep

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FBI’s Tesla Criminal Probe Reportedly Centers on Model 3 Production

Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

Danger, Will Robinson

As famous Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield demonstrated with his extraterrestrial sob session, fluids behave strangely in space.

And while microgravity makes for a great viral video, it also has terrifying medical implications that we absolutely need to sort out before we send people into space for the months or years necessary for deep space exploration.

Specifically, research published Thursday In the New England Journal of Medicine demonstrated that our brains undergo lasting changes after we spend enough time in space. According to the study, cerebrospinal fluid — which normally cushions our brain and spinal cord — behaves differently in zero gravity, causing it to pool around and squish our brains.

Mysterious Symptoms

The brains of the Russian cosmonauts who were studied in the experiment mostly bounced back upon returning to Earth.

But even seven months later, some abnormalities remained. According to National Geographic, the researchers suspect that high pressure  inside the cosmonauts’ skulls may have squeezed extra water into brain cells which later drained out en masse.

Now What?

So far, scientists don’t know whether or not this brain shrinkage is related to any sort of cognitive or other neurological symptoms — it might just be a weird quirk of microgravity.

But along with other space hazards like deadly radiation and squished eyeballs, it’s clear that we have a plethora of medical questions to answer before we set out to explore the stars.

READ MORE: Cosmonaut brains show space travel causes lasting changes [National Geographic]

More on space medicine: Traveling to Mars Will Blast Astronauts With Deadly Cosmic Radiation, new Data Shows

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Zero Gravity Causes Worrisome Changes In Astronauts’ Brains

We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Check Yourself

The agriculture industry needs to get its priorities straight.

According to a newly published study, the world food system is producing too many unhealthy foods and not enough healthy ones.

“We simply can’t all adopt a healthy diet under the current global agriculture system,” said study co-author Evan Fraser in a press release. “Results show that the global system currently overproduces grains, fats, and sugars, while production of fruits and vegetables and, to a smaller degree, protein is not sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the current population.”

Serving Downsized

For their study, published Tuesday in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Guelph compared global agricultural production with consumption recommendations from Harvard University’s Healthy Eating Plate guide. Their findings were stark: The agriculture industry’s overall output of healthy foods does not match humanity’s needs.

Instead of the recommended eight servings of grains per person, it produces 12. And while nutritionists recommend we each consume 15 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, the industry produces just five. The mismatch continues for oils and fats (three servings instead of one), protein (three servings instead of five), and sugar (four servings when we don’t need any).

Overly Full Plate

The researchers don’t just point out the problem, though — they also calculated what it would take to address the lack of healthy foods while also helping the environment.

“For a growing population, our calculations suggest that the only way to eat a nutritionally balanced diet, save land, and reduce greenhouse gas emission is to consume and produce more fruits and vegetables as well as transition to diets higher in plant-based protein,” said Fraser.

A number of companies dedicated to making plant-based proteins mainstream are already gaining traction. But unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the agriculture industry will decide to prioritize growing fruits and veggies over less healthy options as long as people prefer having the latter on their plates.

READ MORE: Not Enough Fruits, Vegetables Grown to Feed the Planet, U of G Study Reveals [University of Guelph]

More on food scarcity: To Feed a Hungry Planet, We’re All Going to Need to Eat Less Meat

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We Aren’t Growing Enough Healthy Foods to Feed Everyone on Earth

Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

Emissions Enigma

For years, a mystery puzzled environmental scientists. The world had banned the use of many ozone-depleting compounds in 2010. So why were global emission levels still so high?

The picture started to clear up in June. That’s when The New York Times published an investigation into the issue. China, the paper claimed, was to blame for these mystery emissions. Now it turns out the paper was probably right to point a finger.

Accident or Incident

In a paper published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, an international team of researchers confirms that eastern China is the source of at least half of the 40,000 tonnes of carbon tetrachloride emissions currently entering the atmosphere each year.

They figured this out using a combination of ground-based and airborne atmospheric concentration data from near the Korean peninsula. They also relied on two models that simulated how the gases would move through the atmosphere.

Though they were able to narrow down the source to China, the researchers weren’t able to say exactly who’s breaking the ban and whether they even know about the damage they’re doing.

Pinpoint

“Our work shows the location of carbon tetrachloride emissions,” said co-author Matt Rigby in a press release. “However, we don’t yet know the processes or industries that are responsible. This is important because we don’t know if it is being produced intentionally or inadvertently.”

If we can pinpoint the source of these emissions, we can start working on stopping them and healing our ozone. And given that we’ve gone nearly a decade with minimal progress on that front, there’s really no time to waste.

READ MORE: Location of Large ‘Mystery’ Source of Banned Ozone Depleting Substance Uncovered [University of Bristol]

More on carbon emissions: China Has (Probably) Been Pumping a Banned Gas Into the Atmosphere

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Report Identifies China as the Source of Ozone-Destroying Emissions

An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Name Game

There’s a prominent artificial intelligence conference that goes by the suggestive acronym NIPS, which stands for “Neural Information Processing Systems.”

After receiving complaints that the acronym was alienating to women, the conference’s leadership collected suggestions for a new name via an online poll, according to WIRED. But the conference announced Monday that it would be sticking with NIPS all the same.

Knock It Off

It’s convenient to imagine that this acronym just sort of emerged by coincidence, but let’s not indulge in that particular fantasy.

It’s more likely that tech geeks cackled maniacally when they came up with the acronym, and the refusal to do better even when people looking up the conference in good faith are bombarded with porn is a particularly telling failure of the AI research community.

Small Things Matter

This problem goes far beyond a silly name — women are severely underrepresented in technology research and even more so when it comes to artificial intelligence. And if human decency — comforting those who are regularly alienated by the powers that be — isn’t enough of a reason to challenge the sexist culture embedded in tech research, just think about what we miss out on.

True progress in artificial intelligence cannot happen without a broad range of diverse voices — voices that are silenced by “locker room talk” among an old boy’s club. Otherwise, our technological development will become just as stuck in place as our cultural development often seems to be.

READ MORE: AI RESEARCHERS FIGHT OVER FOUR LETTERS: NIPS [WIRED]

More on Silicon Valley sexism: The Tech Industry’s Gender Problem Isn’t Just Hurting Women

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An AI Conference Refusing a Name Change Highlights a Tech Industry Problem

Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

Green-Light District

It doesn’t matter how advanced our self-driving cars get — if they aren’t allowed on roads, they aren’t going to save any lives.

The future of autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the U.S. depends on how lawmakers in Washington D.C. choose to regulate the vehicles. But until now, AV testing has largely taken place far from the nation’s capital, mostly in California and Arizona.

Ford is about to change that. The company just announced plans to be the first automaker to test its self-driving cars in the Distinct of Columbia — and how lawmakers feel about those vehicles could influence future AV legislation.

Career Day

Sherif Marakby, CEO of Ford Autonomous Vehicles, announced the decision to begin testing in D.C. via a blog post last week. According to Marakby, Ford’s politician-friendly focus will be on figuring out how its AVs could promote job creation in the District.

To that end, Ford plans to assess how AVs could increase mobility in D.C., thereby helping residents get to jobs that might otherwise be outside their reach, as well as train residents for future positions as AV technicians or operators.

Up Close and Personal

Marakby notes that D.C. is a particularly suitable location for this testing because the District is usually bustling with activity. The population increases significantly during the day as commuters arrive from the suburbs for work, while millions of people flock to D.C. each year for conferences or tourism.

D.C. is also home to the people responsible for crafting and passing AV legislation. “[I]t’s important that lawmakers see self-driving vehicles with their own eyes as we keep pushing for legislation that governs their safe use across the country,” Marakby wrote.

Ford’s ultimate goal is to launch a commercial AV service in D.C. in 2021. With this testing, the company has the opportunity to directly influence the people who could help it reach that goal — or oppose it.

READ MORE: A Monumental Moment: Our Self-Driving Business Development Expands to Washington, D.C. [Medium]

More on AV legislation: U.S. Senators Reveal the Six Principles They’ll Use to Regulate Self-Driving Vehicles

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Ford’s Self-Driving Cars Are About to Chauffeur Your Senator

This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

Minority Report

Imagine this: You file a police report, but back at the station, they feed it into an algorithm — and it accuses you of lying, as though it had somehow looked inside your brain.

That might sound like science fiction, but Spain is currently rolling out a very similar program, called VeriPol, in many of its police stations. VeriPol’s creators say that when it flags a report as false, it turns out to be correct more than four-fifths of the time.

Lie Detector

VeriPol is the work of researchers at Cardiff University and Charles III University of Madrid.

In a paper published earlier this year in the journal Knowledge-Based Systems, they describe how they trained the lie detector with a data set of more than 1,000 robbery reports — including a number that police identified as false — to identify subtle signs that a report wasn’t true.

Thought Crime

In pilot studies in Murcia and Malaga, Quartz reported, further investigation showed that the algorithm was correct about 83 percent of the time that it suspected a report was false.

Still, the project raises uncomfortable questions about allowing algorithms to act as lie detectors. Fast Company reported earlier this year that authorities in the United States, Canada, and the European Union are testing a separate system called AVATAR that they want to use to collect biometric data about subjects at border crossings — and analyze it for signs that they’re not being truthful.

Maybe the real question isn’t whether the tech works, but whether we want to permit authorities to act upon what’s essentially a good — but not perfect — assumption that someone is lying.

READ MORE: Police Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Spot Written Lies [Quartz]

More on lie detectors: Stormy Daniels Took a Polygraph. What Do We Do With the Results?

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This AI Lie Detector Flags Falsified Police Reports

These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

Factory Farm

Plastics have revolutionized manufacturing, but they’re still terrible for the environment.

Manufacturing plastics is an energy-intensive slog that ends in mountains of toxic industrial waste and greenhouse gas emissions. And then the plastic itself that we use ends up sitting in a garbage heap for thousands of years before it biodegrades.

Scientists have spent years investigating ways to manufacture plastics without ruining the planet, and a Toronto biotech startup called Genecis says it’s found a good answer: factories where vats of bacteria digest food waste and use it to form biodegradable plastic in their tiny microbial guts.

One-Two Punch

The plastic-pooping bacteria stand to clean up several kinds of pollution while churning out usable materials, according to Genecis.

That’s because the microbes feed on waste food or other organic materials — waste that CBC reported gives off 20 percent of Canada’s methane emissions as it sits in landfills.

Then What?

The plastic that the little buggers produce isn’t anything new. It’s called PHA and it’s used in anything that needs to biodegrade quickly, like those self-dissolving stitches. What’s new here is that food waste is much cheaper than the raw materials that usually go into plastics, leading Genecis to suspect it can make the same plastics for 40 percent less cost.

There are a lot of buzzworthy new alternative materials out there, but with a clear environmental and financial benefit, it’s possible these little bacteria factories might be here to stay.

READ MORE: Greener coffee pods? Bacteria help turn food waste into compostable plastic [CBC]

More on cleaning up plastics: The EU Just Voted to Completely ban Single-Use Plastics

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These Bacteria Digest Food Waste Into Biodegradable Plastic

Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement

Hall of Mirrors

A few years ago, the journal Small published a study showing how photosynthetic bacteria could absorb and release photons as the light bounced across a minuscule gap between two mirrors.

Now, a retroactive look at the study’s data published in The Journal of Physics Communications suggests something more may have been going on. The bacteria may have been the first living organisms to operate in the realm of quantum physics, becoming entangled with the bouncing light at the quantum scale.

Cat’s Cradle

The experiment in question, as described by Scientific American, involved individual photons — the smallest quantifiable unit of light that can behave like a tiny particle but also a wave of energy within quantum physics — bouncing between two mirrors separated by a microscopic distance.

But a look at the energy levels in the experimental setup suggests that the bacteria may have become entangled, as some individual photons seem to have simultaneously interacted with and missed the bacterium at the same time.

Super Position

There’s reason to be skeptical of these results until someone actually recreates the experiment while looking for signs of quantum interactions. As with any look back at an existing study, scientists are restricted to the amount and quality of data that was already published. And, as Scientific American noted, the energy levels of the bacteria and the mirror setup should have been recorded individually — which they were not — in order to verify quantum entanglement.

But if this research holds up, it would be the first time a life form operated on the realm of quantum physics, something usually limited to subatomic particles. And even though the microbes are small, that’s a big deal.

READ MORE“Schrödinger’s Bacterium” Could Be a Quantum Biology Milestone [Scientific American]

More on quantum physics: The World’s First Practical Quantum Computer May Be Just Five Years Away

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Scientists May Have Put Microbes in a State of Quantum Entanglement