Daily Archives: October 6, 2019

Addressing the Scientific Reproducibility Crisis with Singularity – insideHPC

Posted: October 6, 2019 at 4:46 pm

Michael Bauer from Sylabs.IO

In this video from the Perth HPC Conference, Michael Bauer from Sylabs presents: Addressing the Scientific Reproducibility Crisis with Singularity.

Containers provide the means to encapsulate an application, its dependencies, data, and configurations, that allows for full mobility and reproducibility of the software stack. Containers have disrupted the Linux scene within the last few years because they have created a paradigm shift in what it means to package up and move applications and data.

Sylabs is the leader in secure, trusted, performance focused container solutions. The capabilities that we have created are revolutionary and unique within the industry purposely built to address some of the shortcomings and flaws within the current container technologies. On top of that, we have created a series of commercially accessible value adds for traditional simulation, artificial intelligence, edge computing, on-ramping to the cloud, multi-cloud, edge, and core infrastructure management.

Michael Bauer is a senior software engineer at Sylabs, whos an expert in Linux container technologies. At Sylabs, hes the lead engineer of the core services team, providing technical oversight and direction over products such as Singularity, SingularityPRO, and various Kubernetes integrations. Michael has been involved with the Singularity open source project for almost three years, first as a contributor and now as a project lead and maintainer. Hes given talks about Singularity and Linux containers around the world at conferences such as ISC, SC, FOSDEM, and many others. Recently, hes been exploring novel approaches to machine learning via container technology.

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Goodbye humans, hello cyborgs: The moment of Singularity is nigh – Daily Maverick

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Picture from Pixabay

Almost exactly three years ago in 2016, Apple launched the iPhone 7s. Among the usual announcements and upgrades, it revealed the smartphones new portrait mode, which would allow users to take images that are able to isolate the subject and make the background blurry. The idea? A mechanical technique generally achieved by the actual SLR cameras using the kind of wide lens that is able to achieve a shallow depth of field depending on the distance between the subject and the background.

The size of the phones lens being what it is, phone manufacturers dont have the luxury of making phones with interchangeable and big lenses. Their solution was artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, a subset of AI. While the phones lens might struggle to tell the distance between the subject and the background, the AI technology, trained on a massive amount of photographic data, is able to identify the face on a selfie, and then separate that from the background, making the latter blurry.

Portrait mode, or Live Focus as it is known in some Android phones, is just one among many and some far more consequential examples of how artificial intelligence and machine learning has become a ubiquitous part of our lives through our smartphones. Much of this technology has increased our efficiency, whether its a navigation app warning us of traffic and finding us the best route, or for journalists like this one, a transcription app that can transcribe a 30-minute long interview in a matter of seconds.

Over the last few years, platforms like Gmail and their accompanying smartphone apps have become frighteningly good at classifying our email and identifying spam, chain letters and promotional material wed rather not see, and sticking it all into folders where the sun doesnt shine.

There are also the somewhat bothersome and eerily accurately targeted adverts that pop up on our phone apps. Admittedly not always on target; at times even after youve done your online shopping, that item might keep popping up in ads for a few more days. To be fair, marketers for whom this particular kind of advertising works might find them a tad less bothersome.

On the dark side of AI, we have algorithms on social media platforms that only feed us more of what we want to see, sometimes reaffirming the beliefs we hold, with little regard for factual integrity. Harmless when they feed you happy cat videos every hour if thats your groove. Not so harmless when your YouTube feed is a long list of conspiracy videos about how the Clintons run a child trafficking ring, aka Pizzagate.

However, AI goes far beyond phones, and into areas such as smart cars, smart homes, banking, and even employee procurement. The ubiquity of the smartphone as the primary way in which many of us interact with the internet makes it one of the most prevalent ways in which we experience AI. And we expect it to work every time. We expect that Uber app to know the shortest and least busy route, and predict a fair fare without fail. And, indeed, in many instances, our interactions with AI are so predictable as to be unremarkable. However, for most of us not directly working in tech, we have no way of predicting where our ecstatic embrace of AI, and our growing dependency on it, championed by the smartphone, will lead us.

On 28 August 2019, at the World AI Conference in Shanghai, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has been vocal on his concerns about the future of AI, took to the stage in conversation with Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma.

Well, computers actually are already much smarter than people on so many dimensions. We just keep moving the goalposts. So we used to think like, for example, being good at chess was an example of a smart human. And then Kasparov was crushed by [IBM supercomputer] Deep Blue in 97. That was a long time ago, 22 years. I mean, right now your cellphone could crush the world champion at chess, literally. Go used to be thought of as something that humans were better at than computers. Then Lee Sedol was beaten four to one by [Google DeepMind program] Alpha Zero, said Musk, referring to the popular Chinese-invented board game.

Humans trying to play a computer at Go is like trying to fight Zeus. Its not going to work. Hopeless, we are hopeless. Hopelessly inadequate basically theres just a smaller and smaller corner of what of intellectual pursuits that humans are better than computers. Every year it gets smaller and smaller, and soon will be far surpassed in every single way.

He went on compare the difference between human intelligence and the future of AI to the difference between chimpanzee intelligence and human intelligence, the human being the equivalent of the chimpanzee in this scenario when compared to AI.

In fact, if the difference is only that small, that would be amazing. Probably its much, much greater. So, like, the biggest mistake that I see artificial intelligence researchers making is assuming that theyre intelligent. Yeah, theyre not, compared to AI. A lot of them cannot imagine something smarter than themselves, but AI will be vastly smarter vastly.

Over the past two decades, the idea of a superior artificial intelligence has grown in popularity and is encompassed in the concept of the singularity. Scholars, fiction writers and futurists have defined in different ways the idea that there will come a time where technology will advance so exponentially that the human systems we know will be obliterated. All will become irreversible as a superior machine intelligence takes over in ways we cannot yet imagine.

Other definitions focus on our eventual merging with the machines, to become a different type of being. One of the most prominent voices is futurist, entrepreneur and inventor Ray Kurzweil who wrote the 2005 book The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. He predicts the exact year of the realisation of the Singularity to be 2045.

We are entering a new era. I call it the Singularity. Its a merger between human intelligence and machine intelligence that is going to create something bigger than itself. Its the cutting edge of evolution on our planet. One can make a strong case that its actually the cutting edge of the evolution of intelligence in general, because theres no indication that its occurred anywhere else. To me, that is what human civilization is all about. It is part of our destiny and part of the destiny of evolution to continue to progress ever faster, and to grow the power of intelligence exponentially.

To contemplate stopping that to think human beings are fine the way they are is a misplaced, fond remembrance of what human beings used to be. What human beings are is a species that has undergone a cultural and technological evolution, and its the nature of evolution that it accelerates, and that its powers grow exponentially, and thats what were talking about. The next stage of this will be to amplify our own intellectual powers with the results of our technology, said Kurzweil in a 2001 talk published on Edge.

Others like Musk are as vocal about the potential pitfalls of AI, and Musk has even written a cautionary open letter about it. Yet, he believes, If you cant beat them, join them.

In July 2019, he announced the first product from his company Neuralink, a computer chip that can be stitched into the human brain, which is able to pick up signals from the brain and translate them into machine-readable code, effectively merging us with machines in one way, and offering up potential health benefits, like helping the blind see, or returning certain functions to body parts that have lost them. At the highly futuristic end, the chip could allow humans to interact directly with AI, sans smartphone.

By Musks own admission, they have tested it on rats and monkeys, and: A monkey has been able to control a computer with its brain, just FYI. Human clinical trials are expected to begin in 2020.

Says Musk: Can we be able to go along for the ride with AI? I mean, I really think that there should be other companies like Neuralink, essentially, to create a high bandwidth interface to the brain. Because right now, we are already a cyborg. People dont realize we are already a cyborg. Because we are so well integrated with our phones and our computers. ML

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The End of the Chinese Miracle Is in Sight. What’s Next? – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 4:46 pm

Governments around the world are rushing to keep up with emerging technologies. No one wants to be left behind as more industries and facets of life are impacted by the transition from analogue to digital, manual to automated, and authentic to synthetic.

One of the countries at the front of the pack is China. Its government is aiming to lead the world in AI by 2030. Tech giants Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are rivaled in size and clout only by the likes of Amazon and Google. Its pouring huge amounts of venture capital into tech. And its scientists are moving forward with gene editing even as other countries grapple with its ethical concerns.

This all points to likely success for China as a tech superpower. But as it moves swiftly into the future, it can be easy to forget that, in terms of development, much of the worlds most populous country hasnt yet left the past behind.

Last week world leaders convened in New York for the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, which included a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Much of the focus for the SDGs falls on the African continent, home to the countries with the highest poverty ratesand highest birth ratesin the world. Having reduced its extreme poverty rate from 88 percent in 1981 to less than 2 percent in 2013in whats been aptly dubbed the Chinese MiracleChina doesnt get mentioned as often in global development conversations anymore.

But its still an important player in the field, not least because of its massive population, which at nearly 1.5 billion outnumbers all African countries put together. Its size gives it a huge weight in overall global statistics, and we should still be keeping close tabs on its progress.

In a recent paper published in Science Advances, a research team examined regional divisions, gaps between urban and rural populations, social inequality, and other factors to evaluate where Chinas development progress measures up and where its falling short.

Even in the worlds richest countries, wealth is by no means evenly distributed across geographic lines. 2018 average per capita income in the US, for example, was $74,561 in Connecticutand $37,994 in Mississippi. People who live in or near big cities tend to have greater access to opportunity and wealth creation.

China is no exception; significant gaps exist between coastal and inland regions and between urban and rural areas, not just in wealth and employment, but also in access to education and healthcare. According to the paper, though these gaps have narrowed, they havent yet closed.

The widest gap is in education between urban and rural areas. The good news is that across the board, people are getting more years of educationbut urbanites are still getting 3 more years on average and are 7 times more likely to go to college.

The figures for healthcare are less stark. The infant mortality rate as of 2016 was 0.4 percent in urban areas and 0.9 percent in rural areas. The disparity in maternal mortality has disappeared, standing at 2 per million across the board.

Rural residents overall mortality rate used to be almost double that of urbanites, but theres been a leveling effect with the explosive growth of Chinese cities. While moving to cities has upped peoples incomes and educational attainment, its also exposed them to the ills of urban livingnamely, more pollution, less cardiovascular activity, and a less healthy diet, all contributing to higher rates of illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

Its important to note that while the paper details death and disease rates, it doesnt include information about access to care or quality of care, which are more indicative of equity.

Chinas urban migration between 19882015 was so massive that its been called not just the biggest human exodus in history, but the biggest migration of any type of mammal. A 2015 estimate put the number of migrant workers at 277 million. According to the paper, both urban and rural incomes increased more than 10-fold since the early 1990sbut the income gap increased even more. Factory and office workers in cities make on average three times more than agricultural workers in the countryside, and people working in coastal areas have by far the highest per capita disposable incomes.

While millions in China are no longer extremely poor, millions are still poor; 43 million people were estimated to be living below the poverty line in 2018. The governments main strategy in its declared war on poverty consists of moving rural residents to cities. But big cities are already sprawling and overcrowded, and plunking farmers down in high-rise apartments doesnt guarantee a better life, especially if they dont have the skills to get a city job.

The conditions that enabled the Chinese Miraclean authoritarian government, a huge working-age population, and population control via the one-child policycan only keep on giving for so long. In particular, the working population is aging, and as millions of workers approach retirement, the ranks available to take their placeand to fund the countrys pension systemarent as plentiful.

In short, China is approaching a fascinating (and potentially treacherous) inflection point. In the wake of its incredible 30 years, its path to sustained progress will likely be more complex. If its going to produce a second miracle and eradicate poverty across the country, its commitment to becoming a tech superpower may be an apt starting point. And its lax approach to privacy and the powerful tools already in place to collect data on multiple aspects of its citizens lives will give China a technological edge over its Western counterparts.

Whether Chinas ambitions will pan out remains to be seen, but its got its work cut out for it on multiple fronts.

For one, its economic growth has come with a hefty environmental price tag. As the paper put it, growth has been achieved at the expense of natural resources and the environment, which has led to excessive emissions including wastewater, waste gas, solid waste, and carbon dioxide that extended from the developed east region to the undeveloped west region. Though its already begun to take drastic measures to improve its environmental recordand safeguard the health of its land and peopleChinas size and clout mean it should be aiming to be a world leader in caring for the planet, rather than reactively combating an abysmal environmental record.

Its human rights record also leaves much to be desired. International outcry has grown over the CCPs treatment of Uighurs in the north-west Xinjiang province, and tensions have been building for months in Hong Kong. On the business side, a trade war with the US has escalated, and telecoms giant Huawei was banned from US communications networks in May (though theres since been a reprieve).

China has set its sights high, and the hurdles it will have to clear to reach its goals arent small. A country that can reduce poverty by 86 percent in 30 years has some experience solving tough problemsbut unlike 30 years ago, China is now at the center of the world stage, and the world should thus hold it to a high standard. Well soon see if it has another miracle up its sleeve.

Image Credit: Photo bywu yionUnsplash


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DNA Nanomachines Are Opening Medicine to the World of Physics – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 4:46 pm

When I imagine the inner workings of a robot, I think hard, cold mechanics running on physics: shafts, wheels, gears. Human bodies, in contrast, are more of a contained molecular soup operating on the principles of biochemistry.

Yet similar to robots, our cells are also attuned to mechanical forcesjust at a much smaller scale. Tiny pushes and pulls, for example, can urge stem cells to continue dividing, or nudge them into maturity to replace broken tissues. Chemistry isnt king when it comes to governing our bodies; physical forces are similarly powerful. The problem is how to tap into them.

In a new perspectives article in Science, Dr. Khalid Salaita and graduate student Aaron Blanchard from Emory University in Atlanta point to DNA as the solution. The team painted a futuristic picture of DNA mechanotechnology, in which we use DNA machines to control our biology. Rather than a toxic chemotherapy drip, for example, a cancer patient may one day be injected with DNA nanodevices that help their immune cells better grab ontoand snuff outcancerous ones.

For a long time, said Salaita, scientists have been good at making micro devices, hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair. Its been more challenging to make functional nano devices, thousands of times smaller than that. But using DNA as the component parts is making it possible to build extremely elaborate nano devices because the DNA parts self-assemble.

Just as the steam engine propelled civilization through the first industrial revolution, DNA devices may fundamentally change medicine, biological research, and the development of biomaterials, further merging man and machine.

When picturing a tiny, whirling machine surveying the body, DNA probably isnt the first candidate that comes to mind. Made up of long chains of four lettersA, T, C, and GDNA is normally secluded inside a tiny porous cage in every cell, in the shape of long chains wrapped around a protein core.

Yet several properties make DNA a fascinating substrate for making mechano-machines, the authors said. One is its predictability: like soulmates, A always binds to T, and C with G. This chemical linking in turn forms the famous double helix structure. By giving the letters little chemical additions, or swapping them out altogether with unnatural synthetic letters, scientists have been able to form entirely new DNA assemblies, folded into various 3D structures.

Rather than an unbreakable, immutable chain, DNA components are more like Japanese origami paper, or Lego blocks. While they cant make every single shapetry building a completely spherical Death Star out of Legothe chemistry is flexible enough that scientists can tweak its structure, stiffness, and coiling by shifting around the letters or replacing them with entirely new ones.

In the late fall of 1980, Dr. Nadrian Seeman was relaxing at the campus pub at New York University when he noticed a mind-bending woodcut, Depth, by MC Escher. With a spark of insight, he realized that he could form similar lattice shapes using DNA, which would make it a lot easier for him to study the molecules shape. More than a decade later, his lab engineered the first artificial 3D nanostructurea cube made out of DNA molecules. The field of DNA nanotechnology was born.

Originally considered a novelty, technologists rushed to make increasingly complex shapes, such as smiley faces, snowflakes, a tiny world map, and more recently, the worlds smallest playable tic-tac-toe set. It wasnt just fun. Along the way, scientists uncovered sophisticated principles and engineering techniques to shape DNA strands into their desired structures, forming a blueprint of DNA engineering.

Then came the DNA revolution. Reading and writing the molecule from scratch became increasingly cheaper, making it easier to experiment with brand-new designs. Additional chemical or fluorescent tags or other modifications gave scientists a direct view of their creations. Rather than a fringe academic pursuit, DNA origami became accessible to most labs, and the number of devices rapidly explodeddevices that can sense, transmit, and generate mechanical forces inside cells.

If you put together these three main components of mechanical devices, you begin to get hammers and cogs and wheels and you can start building nano machines, said Salaita.

Salaita is among several dozen labs demoing the practical uses of DNA devices.

For example, our cells are full of long-haul driver proteins that carry nutrients and other cargo throughout their interior by following specific highways (it eerily looks like a person walking down a tightrope). Just as too much traffic damages our roadways, changes in our cells logistical players can also harm the cells skeleton. Here, scientists have used DNA handles to measure force-induced changes like stretching, unfolding, and rupture of molecules involved in our cells distribution system to look for signs of trouble.

Then there are DNA tension sensors, which act like scales and other force gauges in our macroscopic world. Made up of a stretchable DNA spring to extend with force, and a fluorescent ruler that measures the extension, each sensor is anchored at one end (generally, the glass bottom of a Petri dish) and binds to a cell at the other. If the pulling force exceeds a certain threshold, the spring unfolds and quenches the fluorescent light in the ruler, giving scientists a warning that the cellular tugging is too strong.

The work may sound abstruse, but its implications are plenty. One is for CAR-T, the revolutionary cancer treatment that uses gene therapy to amp up immune cells with better graspers to target tumor cells. The kiss of death between graspers and tumors are extremely difficult to measure because its light and fleeting. Using a DNA tension sensor, the team was able to track the force during the interaction, which could help scientists engineer better CAR-T therapies. A similar construct, the DNA tension gauge tether, irreversibly ruptures under too much force. The gauge is used to track how stem cells develop into brain cells under mechanical forces, and how immune cells track down and recognize foreign invasion.

[Immune] T cells are constantly sampling cells throughout your body using these mechanical tugs. They bind and pull on proteins on a cells surface and, if the bond is strong, thats a signal that the T cell has found a foreign agent, explained Salaita. DNA devices provide an unprecedented look at these forces in the immune system, which in turn could predict how strongly the body will mount an immune response.

To the authors, however, the most promising emerging DNA devices dont just observethey can also generate forces. DNA walkers, for example, uses DNA feet to transport (and sort) molecular cargo while walking down a track also made of DNA strands. When the feet bind to the track (A to T, C to G), it releases energy that propel the walker forward.

Even more exciting are self-assembling DNA machines. The field has DNA-based devices that transmit, sense and generate mechanical forces, the authors said. But eventually, their integration will produce nanomachines that exert mechanical control over living systems.

As costs keep dropping, the authors believe well witness even more creative and sophisticated DNA nanomachines.

Several hiccups do stand in the way. Like other biomolecules, foreign DNA can be chopped up by the bodys immune system as an invader. However, the team believes that the limitation wont be a problem in the next few years as biochemistry develops chemically-modified artificial DNA letters that resist the bodys scissors.

Another problem is that the DNA devices can generate very little forceless than a billionth the weight of a paperclip, which is a little too low to efficiently control forces in our cells. The authors have a solution here too: coupling many force-generating DNA units together, or engineer translators that can turn electrical energy into mechanical forcesimilar to the way our muscles work.

Fundamentally, any advancements in DNA mechanotechnology wont just benefit medicine; they will also feed back into the design of nanomaterials. The techniques, tools and design principlesare not specific to DNA, the authors said. Add in computer-aided design templates, similar to those used in 3D printing, and potentially anyone can dream up a nano-machine design and make it a reality, said Salaita.

Image Credit: Emory University. DNA mechanotechnology expands the opportunities for research involving biomedicine and materials sciences, says Khalid Salaita, right, professor of chemistry at Emory University and co-author of the article, along with Aaron Blanchard, left, a graduate student in the Salaita Lab.

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Is Artificial Intelligence a danger to humanity? Take a look at the truth – India Today

Posted: at 4:46 pm

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised to disrupt our world. With intelligent machines enabling high-level cognitive processes like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem-solving and decision making, coupled with advances in data collection and aggregation, analytics and computer processing power, AI presents opportunities to complement and supplement human intelligence and enrich the way people live and work.

On the other hand, some of the leading scientists and thinkers have warned about 'technological singularity'. Technological singularity refers to the belief that ordinary humans will someday be overtaken by artificially intelligent machines or cognitively enhanced biological intelligence, or both.

It is a technology that takes in huge amounts of information from a specific domain and uses it to make a decision in the service of a specified goal.

For example, AI technology can be used to analyze loan repayment histories (information) of a person to decide whether to give an individual a loan or not (decision) so as to maximize the profits for the lender (goal).

In 2016, Google-run artificial intelligence (AI) programme "AlphaGo" defeated legendary player Lee Se-dol in Go - a complex Chinese board game that is considered the "quintessential unsolved problem" for machine intelligence.Though the AI has many benefits, it has sparked up a debate about its dangers to humanity.

AI machines are like other human beings in terms of their capacities for decision and action. They cannot be compared to other machines as the degree of independence that AI technologies have is much more complex.

AI is an attempt to reproduce super intelligent humans. It chooses one aspect of human beings, namely the intelligence, and artificially magnifies it to an extent that allows the machine to do things far better than humans can.

AI is associated with superlative memory, calculative power, decision-making capacity, high speeds of action, etc. These machines thus become super-beings, and a society filled with many super-beings is a recipe for disaster.AI machines are a mirror to our desire for immortality and the absence of human weaknesses.

Most importantly, the AI has not been used to get rid of poverty, to have a more equitable distribution of wealth, or to make people more content with what they have. Instead, they will primarily be dictated by profit for the companies that make them.

Healthcare and medicine become affordable and accessible with AI taking centre stage in telemedicine and quick diagnosis. Water and energy networks become accessible and widely usable when AI can mediate the use of different sources.

Unlike the Industrial Revolution and the computer revolution, the AI revolution is not taking certain jobs (artisans, personal assistants who use paper and typewriters) and replacing them with other jobs (assembly-line workers, personal assistants conversant with computers).

Instead, it is poised to bring about a wide-scale decimation of jobs - mostly lower-paying jobs, but some higher-paying ones, too. This transformation will result in enormous profits for the companies that develop AI, as well as for the companies that adopt it.

For example, imagine how much money a car-aggregators make if they remodel their business to userobots as drivers.

Thus, the world is facing two developments that cannot be placed together: enormous wealth concentrated in few hands and large numbers of people out of work.

Part of the solution lies in educating or retraining people in tasks that AI tools aren't good at. For example, artificial intelligence is not suited for jobs involving creativity, planning and "cross-domain" thinking.

A more promising solution is creating lower-paying jobs involving the "people skills" that AI lacks, such as social workers, bartenders etc. these professions require nuanced human interaction. But the question is how many such workers does a society really need?

The NITI Aayog has published an ambitious discussion paper on kick-starting the artificial intelligence (AI) ecosystem in India.

The paper talks about powering five sectors - agriculture, education, healthcare, smart cities/infrastructure and transport - with AI.

The discussion paper accepts that adoption of AI till date has been driven primarily from a commercial perspective.Further, it notes that technology disruptions like AI are once-in-a-generation phenomenon, and hence large-scale adoption strategies need to strike a balance between narrow definitions of financial impact and the greater good.

Data is one of the primary drivers of AI solutions, and thus appropriate handling of data, ensuring privacy and security is of prime importance. In order for India to ride the AI innovation wave, a robust data protection framework and intellectual property framework are required.

Despite the beneficial uses of AI, scientists and leading thinkers like Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, and Elon Musk warn us about the dangers of AI and the coming technological singularity.

It is believed that the purely intelligent creatures, whether people or machines are bad for humanity.

On the other hand, AI, by itself, is not looking to destroy humanity. Whether we use AI to augment ourselves, create new species, or use it to destroy lives and what we've built is entirely in our hands - at least for now.

No matter how dangerous AI might be for humanity, it's clear that there's no slowing down the pace of progress. Regardless of how many deponents come out against AI, there's no way to stop its advancement.

Future discussions will help in directing AI for good rather than bad, but no matter what happens, there's certainly no stopping the wheels of progress as they slowly grind forward.

(Article by ClearIAS Team. ClearIAS.com is a popular website which helps IAS aspirants to prepare for UPSC Civil Services Exam online)

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Theres an enormous black hole lurking in this Nasa photo can you find it? – The Sun

Posted: at 4:46 pm

SUPERMASSIVE black holes are such a huge force in the universe that you'd think they'd be easy to spot from a distance.

However, an image released by Nasa proves this is not the case as the black hole in the photo below can be hard to pinpoint.


The black hole in this image is within the bright elliptical galaxy called Messier 87 (M87).

If you look really closely to the upper left-hand side of the picture you should be able to spot jets of brightness sprouting from the centre of a cloud-like glow.

These jet-like strands are gas and dust particles being pulled into the black hole, which give off heat during the process and can be captured by an infrared camera.

Earlier this year, a close up image of this black hole was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope for the first time ever.


The infrared image above was taken by the Spitzer Space telescope, which was focusing on M87 with its bright blue hues.

The jets of light sprouting from it are thought to spread for thousands of light-years.

Nasa annotated the image so it was easier for people to imagine the black hole in context.

The black hole, described by scientists as a "monster", is 24billion miles across - 3million times the size of the Earth.

Sitting about 300 million trillion miles away from our planet, it was photographed up close by a network of eight telescopes across the globe known as the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT).

When used together, the telescopes combine with the power of a single telescope "the size of our planet", scientists said.

The black hole is so far away, that taking the up close photo of it was equivalent to snapping a DVD on the surface of the moon.

Black holes are technically invisible because no light escapes from them but in certain circumstances, like in a bright galaxy, an outline of a black hole and the light it's swallowing can be seen.

What is a black hole? The key facts

Here's what you need to know...

What is a black hole?

What is an event horizon?

What is a singularity?

How are black holes created?

In other space news, a cannibalistic nearby galaxy has devoured several of its neighbours and scientists think our Milky Way is next.

Aplanet so massive it should not existhas been found by baffled astronomers in a nearby star system.

MATT JAMN Space fans cough up 5000 to live in Spanish cave to 'experience life on Mars'

FIRST CONTACT? Nasa scientist says 'we're close' to huge reveal about life on Mars

ANCIENT APOCALYPSE Asteroid massacred early humans in collision with Earth 13,000 years ago

MUMMY MIA Long-lost temple of Egyptian king found sparking 'curse of the pharaoh' fears

SPACE MYSTERY Mysterious 'cosmic web' that sticks universe together pictured for first time


UFO MYSTERY 'Alien tech' found by Blink-182 singer 'could be scrap from Roswell crash'

And, distant planets may host even more life than we have here on Earth,according to one shock study.

Did you spot the black hole? Let us know in the comments!

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at tech@the-sun.co.uk

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Mysterious cosmic web that sticks the universe together pictured for first time – The Sun

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THE COSMIC web responsible for 'gluing' the far-flung galaxies of the universe together has been directly observed for the first time ever.

Scientists using the European Southern Observatorys Very Large Telescope were able to spot an ancient cluster of galaxies 12billion light years away that are linked together by a network of gas filaments.


The cosmic web theory is central to current explanations of how the universe formed after the Big Bang.

However, until this observation, there had only been indirect evidence to suggest it existed.

Prof Michele Fumagalli, an astrophysicist at Durham University and co-author of the work, said: It is very exciting to clearly see for the first time multiple and extended filaments in the early universe.

"We finally have a way to map these structures directly and to understand in detail their role in regulating the formation of supermassive black holes and galaxies.


The research team were able to directly detect the web by using intensive equipment designed to pick up the faintest of structures.

Galaxy clusters are known for being the most tightly gravitationally-bound structures in the universe.

They can contain hundreds of thousands of galaxies.

It has been predicted that 60% of the hydrogen created during the Big Bang can be seen as long filaments strung out across space in the cosmic web.

By mapping out some of the light emitted by hydrogen within a galaxy cluster called SSA22, the team were able to identify individual filaments of gas that make up a web-like structure between galaxies.

Erika Hamden, an astrophysicist at the University of Arizona said: "These observations of the faintest, largest structures in the universe are a key to understanding how our universe evolved through time, how galaxies grow and mature, and how the changing environments around galaxies created what we see around us."

It is thought that the cosmic web is the scaffolding of the cosmos and provides the framework for galaxies to form and evolve.

The latest observations support this theory by revealing supermassive black holes, starbursting galaxies and lots of active stars all at the intersections between the filaments.

First author of the research Hideki Umehata said: "This suggests very strongly that gas falling along the filaments under the force of gravity triggers the formation of starbursting galaxies and supermassive black holes, giving the universe the structure that we see today."

The cosmic web has been observed before but only as short blobs of gas beyond galaxies.

Umehata noted: "Now we have been able to clearly show that these filaments are extremely long, going even beyond the edge of the field that we viewed.

"This adds credence to the idea that these filaments are actually powering the intense activity that we see within the galaxies inside the filaments."

The findings have been published in the journal Science.

What is a black hole? The key facts

Here's what you need to know...

What is a black hole?

What is an event horizon?

What is a singularity?

How are black holes created?

In other space news, acannibalistic nearby galaxyhas devoured several of its neighbours and scientists think our Milky Way is next.

Aplanet so massive it should not existhas been found by baffled astronomers in a nearby star system.

MATT JAMN Space fans cough up 5000 to live in Spanish cave to 'experience life on Mars'

FIRST CONTACT? Nasa scientist says 'we're close' to huge reveal about life on Mars

ANCIENT APOCALYPSE Asteroid massacred early humans in collision with Earth 13,000 years ago

MUMMY MIA Long-lost temple of Egyptian king found sparking 'curse of the pharaoh' fears


UFO MYSTERY 'Alien tech' found by Blink-182 singer 'could be scrap from Roswell crash'

And, there's an enormous black hole lurking in this Nasa photo can you find it?

What do you think about this cosmic web revelation? Let us know in the comments...

We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at tech@the-sun.co.uk

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This Week’s Awesome Tech Stories From Around the Web (Through October 5) – Singularity Hub

Posted: at 4:46 pm


UPS Gets FAA Clearance to Roll Out a Fleet of Delivery DronesAllison Matyus | Digital TrendsThe move essentially will allow UPS to create its own drone airline. The companysUPS Flight Forward programnow has full FAA Part 135 Standard certification to operate a fleet of drones beyond an operators line of sight and the ability to fly drones at night. The companys Matternet drones will at first be used for the delivery of medical products and specimens.

Boston Dynamics Spot Robot Dog Goes on SaleErico Guizzo | IEEE SpectrumThe machines animal-like behavior regularly electrifies crowds at tech conferences, and like other Boston Dynamics robots, Spot is a YouTube sensation whosevideos amass millions of views. Now anyone interested in buying a Spotor a pack of themcan go to the companyswebsiteand submit anorder form.

Should Central Banks Issue Digital Currency? Suddenly, Its an Urgent Question.Mike Orcutt | MIT Technology ReviewFor years, powerful central banks around the world have claimed to be studying digital currencies, and most have left open the possibility that one day they might launch their own. That day may be dawningmuch earlier than anyone expected.

Elon Musk Just UnveiledStarship, SpaceXs Human-Carrying RocketDaniel Oberhaus | WiredBehind [Elon Musk] stood the hull of a gleaming, bullet-shaped rocket clad in stainless steel. It looked like something pulled straight from the pages of a pulp science fiction novel, but this is no fantasy. Starshipis quite unlike anything thats ever been sent to space. Its a vehicle that Musk hasdescribed as a strange cross between a rocket booster, a crew capsule, and a skydiver.

Artificial Skin Gives Haptic Feedback, Could Let You Feel VRGeorgina Torbet | Digital TrendsThe skin is made of silicone and electrodes, and it can conform to shapes such as wrapping around a fingertip or wrist to provide feedback in the form of pressure or vibration. The next step will be to develop a fully wearable prototype for applications in rehabilitation and virtual and augmented reality, Sonar said.

Image Credit:drmakete lab /Unsplash

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Canada’s natural governing parties have met a big moment in history with small campaigns – Financial Post

Posted: at 4:44 pm

Ive never been much for Ayn Rand, but man, this election threatens to turn thinking people from all segments of the political spectrum into fans of Atlas Shrugged.

With all due respect to the hard working men and women of the middle class and those eager to join them, getting ahead will require more than voting for a bundle of boutique tax credits or kitschy ideas such as camping vouchers.

There are moments in history, and were in one. The climate is at an inflection point, and neither of the two parties with the best chance of winning the election has had the courage to present a plan that will allow Canada to meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement.

But at least the environment comes up on the campaign trail. There are decent odds that the next government will confront a recession, but no party has seen fit to factor that possibility into their spending programs.

No matter what happens in the short term, the economy will continue to leave behind industries on which Canada has built its prosperity. The contributions by oil, automobile production and retail banking all will shrink as a percentage of gross domestic product, replaced by the winners of the transition to a digital economy.

How would the Liberals or Conservatives manage that shift? No idea, because they havent said a word about it. But both would make it easier for first-time homebuyers to take on more debt, and both would trim tax rates so life would feel a little more affordable.

There is one group that would like to talk about big things, and thats big business. But too many of us have apparently told pollsters that we hate rich people, because anyone that runs a company that employs more than a few dozen people has been excluded from the campaign. Mom-and-pop businesses employ a lot of people, but its the big ones that drive most of the innovation and create most of the wealth. Income inequality is important, but Canada isnt the United States or India, where wealth gaps are extreme. Our political parties have lost sight of that.

Canadas business establishment isnt yet ready to decamp for some Randian paradise. Two corporate lobbies are using the Saturday papers to make one last attempt to push their way into the election debate. The Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI), which represents fast-growing tech outfits, rounded up 112 chief executives to sign an open letter to the four major party leaders as an ad in the Globe and Mail.

Were writing because Canadas productivity is lagging and our future economic prosperity is at risk, the letter states. You can help by developing policies that advance innovative Canadian companies including increasing their access to skilled talent, growth capital, and new customers.

We're writing because Canada's productivity is lagging and our future economic prosperity is at risk

Council of Canadian Innovators letter

Separately, the Chamber of Commerce chose to intervene through a letter to the editor in the National Post. The Chamber conducted an extensive survey of its members and published a detailed list of policy recommendations well ahead of the start of the campaign. For the most part, the efforts of the countrys main business lobby have been ignored.

Party leaders have all made a number of promises to put a few dollars here and there back in the pockets of Canadians through various federal government programs, interventions and tax changes, wrote Ryan Greer, senior director of policy, and Phil Taylor, senior director of strategic communications. However, none of them has presented a serious plan to grow our economy. Go read all of the election platforms and promises released so far, and look for words like competitiveness and productivity. Their scarcity is astounding.

Go read all of the election platforms and promises released so far, and look for words like competitiveness and productivity. Their scarcity is astounding

Canadian Chamber of Commerce

The Conservatives havent yet released their full platform, so maybe they are holding out on the business community. Andrew Scheer, the leader, promised to appoint an expert panel to review the tax system, which would please most executives. But the target audience that day was smaller companies, and the headline was a pledge that would make it easier for doctors, consultants and other professionals to incorporate and use their companies to shelter passive investments from the Canada Revenue Agency.

Not quite a cut to capital gains taxes, which could spur investment in innovative companies. The Liberals also mentioned a tax review in passing, but one that would look to close loopholes that benefit the wealthy. Anything that might force an objective look at Canadas overly complicated and misaligned tax code could help, but its hard to be confident that the Liberals are serious, since they have dismissed the idea outright until now.

Thats the trouble with this campaign. The Trudeau Liberals lack credibility because they blew so many promises during their four years in power, and the Conservatives havent shown they would be any better. Scheers economic policy amounts to saying he will balance the budget, while making small-beer promise after small-beer promise that would widen the shortfall.

Canadas natural governing parties have met a big moment in history with small campaigns. The only people who appear to have noticed are those who all politicians have chosen to tune out. Because its 2019.

Email: kcarmichael@postmedia.com |

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High-Speed Rail in Texas: 5 Reasons It Can Work – Houston Press

Posted: at 4:44 pm

The Central Texas High-Speed Railway (aka, the Texas bullet train) proposed to run between Houston and Dallas continues gradually clearing hurdles, its officials hoping to begin construction in 2020 with an eye on the first trips in 2026. It has hired a builder, was granted an important petition from the Federal Railroad Administration and has secured financing for the privately-funded project.

Still, fairly significant impediments lay ahead, not the least of which is a ruling they are appealing to allow them the use of eminent domain in gaining the property they need for laying the tracks. But, most believe the train is far closer to being a reality today than it was even a year ago.

In a conservative state like Texas where trains are regarded at best with skepticism and at worst as some sort of a gateway drug to an Ayn Rand-like dystopian future, it's remarkable the project has made it this far. But, there are good reasons for a rail system like this one in Texas. Here are five of them.

Texas is flat.

For once, not having mountainous regions in central and east Texas isn't a bad thing. Unlike California, where one estimate suggested digging tunnels for their high-speed rail could cost more than the entire project, in Texas we have wide open prairies to cross making laying tracks much easier than other terrain. Sure, it doesn't make for much to look at when you're staring out the window, but at least you won't have to worry about being lulled to sleep by the boring scenery, falling asleep at the wheel and, well, you get it.

The project is private, not public.

One of the oft-cited concerns by the biggest critics is that a project like this is destined to fail only to be bailed out by taxpayers. Admittedly, privately-funded rail rarely works, but because the state of Texas eyeballs its purse strings the way Heimdall watched the bifrost bridge (yes, that was a reference to Thor...you're welcome), the legislature is already on high alert. Numerous bills and riders aimed at killing the entire project failed to pass in this last legislative session, but that doesn't mean the die hasn't been cast. Clearly the state isn't dropping a penny into the project.

But if anyone were overly concerned, consider the fact that the project is to be backed by investors. People don't bet their investment dollars, particularly in un-tested transportation projects in places like Texas, without feeling more than a little secure in their decision. It's one of the reasons why Vegas remains undefeated.

The station locations could spur economic growth.

The Houston station is planned for where Northwest Mall slowly crumbles near the intersection of the North Loop and 290. Since the completion (cough) of the 290 construction, the entire area is experiencing rather rapid development along the populated corridor. The mall sits adjacent to Hempstead Highway where there is already a rail line running northwest toward Austin, so infrastructure is in place and the area around it is primed for development. Frankly, economic growth is coming to the area anyway, but the promise of a new regional transit hub could certainly help speed that up, particularly if it came attached to a light rail or rapid bus line ferrying passengers into the Galleria and/or downtown.

Expansion to Austin and San Antonio seems almost a given.

The only stop on the line is purported to be in the Brazos Valley near College Station, which makes a lot of sense considering there isn't really another city along the route that is bigger than Brenham or Bryan. Additionally, with College Station only an hour from Austin, a spur that connects the Interstate 35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio something that has already been discussed feels like a no brainer. If 90 minutes to Dallas sound good, imagine 45 to the ACL Festival or an hour to the River Walk. Hell, Texas A&M students will practically be able to commute from Houston.

Driving and flying to Dallas sucks.

From traffic on the roadways, never mind the three-plus hour drive, to airport TSA stops and lost luggage, very little about a quick trip to Dallas (or Austin or San Antonio) is actually quick. It's a huge pain, in fact. Taking either option for work is an inconvenience you deal with. Taking them for entertainment purposes is out of the question unless you are planning to stay the night (or are a glutton for punishment). But, taking an Uber to a train station less than two hours before you're in Dallas grabbing dinner or going to a Cowboys game (not us, obviously, but someone might) sounds downright reasonable.

Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.

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