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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Singularity
Posted: October 10, 2019 at 11:45 pm
Europe may have only had two slots available at the ChengduMajor and after Team Liquid and Alliance claimed those, a few of the remainingteams would be left to fight for two spots in the Dota 2 Summit 11 Minor.
Regional qualifiers for the first Minor of the Dota 2 ProCircuit season have been underway since yesterday, October 9th andfor the European region, there were two spots available at the event. While Ninjasin Pyjamas fell just short of reaching the Major, losing in the lower bracketfinals to Liquid, they would have another shot at reaching the Major as theybeat out Team Singularity to claim the first spot at the Dota 2 Summit 11. ForSingularity, they would have to try once more, this time against Ad Finem theGreek squad who had recently made a return to the Dota 2 scene.
The Greeks were able to play some amazing Dota, constantlyputting Singularity on the back foot even making a massive comeback in thefirst game of the series. Unfortunately for Singularity, they would not beattending the first Minor or Major of the season but for Ad Finem, they willhave the chance to fight in Los Angeles in early November. They join the likesof NiP, Virtus.pro, Hellraisers, Geek Fam and Invictus Gaming.
There are still North and South American qualifiers whichare currently underway and in just a few hours, all eight teams for the Dota 2Summit 11 Minor will be set as we countdown towards the beginning of the DPCseason.
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The Flash Showrunner Shares the Story Behind Using Queen’s Flash Gordon Theme – CBR – Comic Book Resources
Posted: at 11:45 pm
WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for "Into the Void," The Flash Season 6 premiere.
As Barry Allenraced to stop a new meta-human from consuming Central City in a singularity during the Season 6 premiere of The Flash, the Scarlet Speedster briefly left the terrestrial plane as he ran into the black hole. To commemoratethe moment, Cisco Ramon eagerly put on Queen's iconic theme songfrom the cult favorite '80s film Flash Gordon.
For showrunner Eric Wallace, the desire to use the epic theme song was a personal, longstanding ambition, finally fulfilled after working on the Arrowverse series for years.
RELATED:Flash Season 6 Debuts to Solid, But Not Spectacular Ratings
"Ive had the idea [to use the Flash Gordon theme] for a couple of years now," explained Wallace in an interview with TVLine. "That line that Cisco says, Ive been waiting five years!? Well, Ive been waiting five years, too, waiting for the perfect moment. And what better than a premiere, in which the Flash essentially gets to go into outer space -- even if its just for 10 seconds."
Ultimately, Barry is successful in saving the city once again, having gotten a glimpse of the cosmos as Team Flash prepares for the Arrowverse crossover event "Crisis on Infinite Earths." However, viewers should not put too much hope for the DCtelevision series to license additional Queen music anytime soon.
RELATED:The Flash Showrunner 'Could Totally See' an Elongated Man Spinoff Series
"I used as much of it as we could," continued Wallace. "If I could afford it, we would have scored the entire episode to Queen music. But thats a bit out of our budget.
Airing Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW, The Flash stars Grant Gustin, Candice Patton, Carlos Valdes, Danielle Panabaker, Tom Cavanagh, Jesse L. Martin, Danielle Nicolet and Hartley Sawyer.
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The Flash Meets Two Supermen, Black Lightning in Crisis Photos
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Posted: at 11:45 pm
The Irish border is awash with journalists and pundits from Great Britain, scratching their heads in wet frontier fields patrolled by incurious Friesians. No border bridge has been left unmolested by visiting television crews in search of a sombre framing shot. The former Killing Fields outside Enniskillen were my home until I left for university in England at 18. I dont decry the honest attempts of blow-in journalists to explain the conundrum of what Churchill wearily dismissed as the dull and dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone its a bit of a head melter all right. But the blaring singularity of the bad border narrative we hear far too much of is both ignorant and dangerous.
The Brexit border discourse in Great Britain, with few exceptions, cleaves to an overwhelmingly nationalist/catastrophist perspective. If a journalist from Martian TV landed inDerry or Newry, they would probably leave with the idea that there is no border in Ireland at all, save for the new one perfidious Albion seems dead set on imposing on a thwarted, helpless population. To some extent this is a victory for Sinn Fein and its relentless revisionism of contemporary Irish history. Left with a 1998 settlement that required it to abandon support for terror and accept the political reality of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom, the only way to reconcile this defeat with its death cult delusion was to pretend that the border was constitutionally, as well as visibly, gone. When your prize for 40 years of blood and sacrifice is not the promised 32 county socialist utopia but control over planning and bins, youre going to need some stronger snake oil.
Another little heard but still potent border storylies beneath these layers of agitprop one hidden dimension of Northern Irelands long legacy of hatred and hurt. When journalists arrive on the border in search of local colour, the people they encounter in those locales are invariably hostile to the very idea of the UK frontier, let alone what a no-deal exit might do to it. This tends to skew the media perspective somewhat, leavened only by some occasionally neutral business people and the very odd Unionist voice. Sometimes very odd indeed.
The fact that Unionism on the frontier is usually missing from the Brexit story is in large part due to a ruthless and cynical IRA campaign that attacked vulnerable and isolated Protestant communities there and decimated them. Professor Henry Patterson in his book, Irelands Violent Frontier,views this campaign in the 1970s to mid-90s as a form of targeted ethnic cleansing, designed to force Britain to negotiate with Sinn Fein. This onslaught against a community of people often settled in border regions for longer than white people have been in North America resulted in the British Government establishing permanent border army posts to try to halt the slaughter. Ironically, these often besieged bases are now referred to with pompous piety as the hard borders of the past. Their point was to save lives not process poultry checks. You wont find that nugget of indigestible truth in most of the contemporary BS.
The IRAs tactics meant that border Protestants, already a fearful minority, were driven from their farms and villages on the frontier to the relative safety of towns further away. This retreat, often in the face of indescribably cruel and intimate violence resulted in a permanent greening of the border a demographic shift that inevitably colours most of the contemporary media output. The few remaining Protestants are understandably loathe to attract attention to themselves with any view that might challenge the strident orthodoxy of the bad border many of them suffered grievously in defending during thedarkest days of the Troubles.
This is not to say that these airbrushed people yearn for the days when the British Army were desperately needed to police a violent and lawless border region. Quite the contrary. A continuing invisible border on the ground is universally desired and desirable outside the fevered imagination of a few Loyalist ultras.
Twenty years of semi skimmed peace have replaced the full fat anarchy of the Troubles. The infrastructure of conflict has been all but completely erased, thank God. I frequently visit my Fermanagh homeland where my psyche was forged and probably damaged at a time when the Troubles ran red hot. Still, youre never far from water in Fermanagh and my childhood memories are studded with glorious weekend trips to the seaside towns of Mullaghmore and Rossnowlagh on Irelands Atlantic coast.
Describing those cross-border journeys in the 1980s to my own grown children as we retrace my steps is surreal. Theres no trace of the massive military infrastructure on the quiet country road that leads to the beach. The queues of traffic and the exotic accents of squaddies from Yorkshire, Strathclyde, Devon are distant memories. The ominous security architecture that looked more at home in some Afghan hotspot than squatting between two friendly and culturally intertwined nations, is razed to the ground. The difference between your own seamless and friendly encounter with the state compared with the experience of others not of your traditions a few cars behind, is an unhappy memory. Who in their right mind would wish a return to those times?
But the simplistic piety of those saying no return to a hard border, replete with shroud waving over renewed terrorism repeated ad infinitum by the GB media risks painting the whole Unionist community, Leavers and Remainers alike, into a dangerous corner where they are forced into a false choice between their own constitutional security and peace. Indeed the Good Friday Agreement was designed primarily to paper over these very cracks. While many Unionists voted for Remain, rightly seeing Brexit as the anvil on which their UK future might well be broken, they did not vote to be co-opted into Sinn Feins long-term project to destroy British identity in Northern Ireland. This matters. Loyalist paramilitaries, long distracted by the lucrative business of wrecking their own working class ghettos with drugs and organised crime, are beginning to pay attention to the bigger picture. The perception of a British identity eroded by Brussels and Dublin beyond an already thin tolerance doesnt allow for the fact that their own Government and fellow citizens landed them at this juncture. No matter. While security correspondents obsess over a resurgent republican threat in the former Badlands, these people are also stirring.But their experience and their threat doesnt really feature in reports from South Down and South Armagh or Derrys hinterland where prowling hacks from Sky News, the Today programme et al wait to pounce.
Northern Ireland defies the physics of soundbite news gathering. Identity is a two way street laced with landmines. The distance between polarities is always surprisingly small on the map but the chasm of unreconciled hurt and grief is enormous and no more so than on the frayed edges of Britains rule in Ireland. Any hopeful future will be helped by reporting that acknowledges this uncomfortable diversity.It is not assisted by the indecent excitement of some elements of our media, talking up civil disobedience and violent insurgency along Europes latest go-to fault line. We are beginning to see the dark prophesy of all this attention. The answer to the border is to put it back to sleep. It should never have been woken up.
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The Day Shall Come: Chris Morriss film may be the years biggest disappointment to date – The Irish Times
Posted: at 11:45 pm
That noise you hear may be mystique hissing from the venerable Chris Morris Project. To this point, Morris, co-creator of The Day Today, prime mover of Brasseye, has been cautious about giving too much of himself to interviewers, but he has been on every other news bulletin explaining the premise of his second feature film.
Based on a hundred true stories, The Day Shall Come touches on efforts by the FBI to encourage harmless oddballs towards acts of terrorism that the agency could then bravely thwart. The projects took the art of entrapment to hitherto unimagined heights. Few fantasy novelists have worked so hard to create alternative universes.
You know what they say about the relative strangeness of fact and fiction. Morris, who co-authored the screenplay with Jesse Armstrong, has transformed these fascinating yarns into the first out-and-out dud of his career.
There were a few clanks and some over-extended routines in Four Lions, Morriss first feature, but that 2010 films singularity of purpose kicked aside most reasonable objections. It knew where it was going. Clocking in at a suspiciously short 87 minutes (not that one would want it much longer), The Day Shall Come, which began shooting over two years ago, feels like a salvage job on a smart notion that curdled in the execution.
It helps not a jot that much of the action suggests a ramshackle version of Four Lions. That film concerned bumbling terrorists. The current project concerns bumbling fake terrorists. Morris and his team could at least have made a different sort of bad film.
Anyway, The Day Shall Come does boast some brave, committed performances. The largely unknown Marchnt Davis is excellent as Moses Al Shabazz, leader of a bonkers but largely benign religious commune in an impoverished section of Miami. Merrily titled The Star of Six, the cult shares its devotions among Allah, a black Santa and Haitian revolutionary Franois-Dominique Toussaint LOuverture (weirdly little effort is made to conceal the fact that much of the Florida action is shot next door to Haiti in the Dominican Republic).
Somehow or other, Kendra Glack (Anna Kendrick), an FBI operative, happens upon one of Mosess speeches and decides to nudge the cult towards an outrageous terrorist conspiracy. This involves interactions with a fake sheikh, flogging ersatz nukes to Nazi bikers and apparently divine messages from angry weather systems.
Orange is the New Black graduate Danielle Brooks deserves much praise for making something fleshy of Mosess long-suffering, less befuddled wife. There is real pathos in their struggles with sanity and neoliberal economics. Indeed, Brooks and Davis are so good one yearns for them to escape the chaos and settle down in a nice quiet sitcom.
The best satire teases and heightens the absurdities of real life. The current project buries the reality in such fuss and mess that it becomes an irrelevance. The film does not regain its bite until, with accompanying snaps, the closing credits lay out the awful injustices visited on largely innocent citizens. It might work better if the FBI schemes were better known, but here the historical absurdities feel indistinguishable from Morriss fevered inventions.
The complications that spin out around Moses are too random to bother entangling. Its as if James Ellroy had been taking dictation from the Banana Splits. Worse still are the embarrassingly off-the-peg Ianuccisms that characterise the FBI interactions.
Armando Iannucci and Chris Morris have, of course, been fecund collaborators for decades and Morriss influence runs through his friends The Thick of It and Veep, but, in this instance, the baroque profanity plays like a desperate effort to force energy into an imminent corpse.
Possibly the movie years biggest disappointment to date.
Opens on October 11th
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Giant black hole at centre of Milky Way exploded recently and blast was felt 200,000 light-years away – The Sun
Posted: at 11:45 pm
THE SUPERMASSIVE black hole at the centre of the Milky Way exploded 3.5million years ago, according to astronomers.
This is considered to be 'astonishingly recent' in galactic terms and is changing what scientists thought they knew about our galaxy.
Professor Lisa Kewley, who worked on the study, said: "This is a dramatic event that happened a few million years ago in the Milky Way's history.
"A massive blast of energy and radiation came right out of the galactic centre and into the surrounding material.
"This shows that the centre of the Milky Way is a much more dynamic place than we had previously thought. It is lucky we're not residing there!"
The cataclysmic blast ripped through our galaxy and was likely felt 200,00 light years away in the Magellanic Stream.
It is considered to be a recent event because when it happened the dinosaurs had already been wiped out for 63million years and human ancestors were already walking on Earth.
This black hole blast phenomenon is known as a Seyfert flare.
The astronomers think it would have created two enormous 'ionisation cones' that would have sliced through the Milky Way.
They think it was caused by nuclear activity in the gigantic black hole, known as Sagittarius A.
It is estimated to have lasted for around 300,000 years, which is extremely short in galactic terms.
Co-author Magda Guglielmo from the University of Sydney said: "These results dramatically change our understanding of the Milky Way.
"We always thought about our Galaxy as an inactive galaxy, with a not so bright centre.
"These new results instead open the possibility of a complete reinterpretation of its evolution and nature.
"The flare event that occurred three million years ago was so powerful that it had consequences on the surrounding of our Galaxy.
"We are the witness to the awakening of the sleeping beauty."
The research was led by by Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn from Australia's ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D).
During the study, data was gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope and used to calculate when and how the explosion took place.
It will soon be published in The Astrophysical Journal.
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 news, the mysterious cosmic web that sticks the universe together has been pictured for first time.
Aplanet so massive it should not existhas been found by baffled astronomers in a nearby star system.
INCOMING New asteroid threat as 50ft space rock could hit Earth in just 70 years
SKY LIGHT How to spot the Draconids meteor shower in the UK tonight
SIMBA ON ICE Perfectly preserved Siberian lion cubs that died up to 44,000 YEARS ago found
DEAD STRANGE Egyptian coffin covered with nonsense hieroglyphics baffles archaeologists
PLANE CRAZY Nasa reveals stellar snap of fiery 'blue' meteor taken through airplane window
WHAT A GEM Ultra-rare diamond with SECOND gem inside found and it could be world's first
And, there's an enormous black holelurking in this Nasa photo can you find it?
What do you make of this Milky Way explosion? 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 email@example.com
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Grammarly raises $90M at over $1B+ valuation for its AI-based grammar and writing tools – TechCrunch
Posted: at 11:45 pm
While attention continues to be focused on the rise and growing sophistication of voice-based interfaces, a startup that is using artificial intelligence to improve how we communicate through the written word has raised a round of funding to capitalise on its already profitable growth.
Grammarly which provides a toolkit used today by 20 million people to correct their written grammar, suggest better ways to write things and moderate the tone of what they are saying depending on who will be doing the reading has closed a $90 million round of funding.
Brad Hoover, the companys CEO, confirmed to TechCrunch that the funding catapults the companys valuation to more than $1 billion as it gears up to grow to more users by expanding Grammarlys tools and bringing them to more platforms.
Today, Grammarly can be used across a number of browsers via browser extensions, as a web app, through mobile and on desktop apps, and through specific apps such as Microsoft Office. But in our current era of communication, the number of places where we write to each other is expanding all the time consider, for example, how much we use chat and texting apps for leisure and for work so expect that list to continue growing.
The mountain of digital communication is increasing, and in the workplace we have more distributed teams, he said, pointing tothe importance of people presenting themselves in consistent and compelling ways.
This latest round is being led by General Catalyst, which had also helped lead its previous and only other round, for $110 million in 2017, with participation from previous investor IVP and other, unnamed backers. It brings the total raised by the startup to $200 million.
Grammarly today operates on a freemium model, where paid tiers give users more tools beyond grammar checks and conciseness to include things like readability detection, alternative vocabulary and tone suggestions (not to be confused with tone policing) and plagiarism checks, with tiers that are priced at $11.66, $19.98 and $29.95 per month.
Hoover would not say how many of its users are taking paid tiers or how much the company makes from that, but he did confirm that, like others offering freemium, the majority of users are free ones.
Like other free users, they are subject to cookies and the rest, but the company confirms to me that it doesnt make any money from that, and only from its subscriptions revenues.
We dont sell or rent user data to third parties for any reason, including for them to deliver their ads. Period. Our business model is a freemium model, in which we offer a free version of our product as well as Grammarly Premium and Grammarly Business, which are paid upgrades, a spokesperson said. The only way Grammarly makes money is through its subscriptions.
Its worth noting that Grammarly has been profitable almost from the start, when it was founded as a bootstrapped outfit in 2009 by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn, who continue to respectively work on product and revenue at the company (Hoover is the startups longtime CEO, having joined back in 2011).
Its singularity of focus and simple message its only available in English and only for written communications, with no plans to expand currently into other languages or other mediums like audio has partly been the reason why Grammarly has found interesting traction in the market, but its also a consequence of the endeavor itself.
The company brings together not just a vast trove of data about proper grammar, but using AI techniques around machine learning and natural language processing it is constantly synthesizing new words and phrases and styles to improve the help that it provides to users, to solve what is essentially an everyday problem for many people: writing well.
Grammarly is solving real challenges that people face every time they pick up a device to answer a text, answer a work email or cold email a potential client, saidHemant Taneja, who led the investment for General Catalyst, in an interview.
While there are large companies attempting to innovate in this space, creating intuitive AI that complements our natural communication abilities isnt their primary focus. Its not even their third, fourth or twentieth focus. For Grammarly, helping people communicate more effectively is their sole goal. And thats why, despite any competition, theyve got more than 20 million daily active users. That 20 million figure is more than three times the number of users Grammarly had in 2017.
Nevertheless, a number of would-be competitors have emerged to provide similar tools or those that directly compete with slightly different propositions. Google, for example, today gives you prompts of what to say when responding to an email, in the form of stock sentences or cues while you are writing.
Hoover says these are less of a worry to Grammarly for a couple of reasons. The first is its approach to be available around whatever you might be writing, and the second is its platform-agnostic state, which means its potentially wherever you are writing, too.
We havent seen any impact from the rise of platform-based aids, Hoover said.
Looking ahead, he added that while Grammarly will be making its way to more platforms, the company will be creating more tools specifically to better court enterprise customers and the use cases that are more specific to them.
While that will not (yet) extend to verbal communication or other languages beyond English, there will be more tools built on the concept of style guides for people in specific departments, such as customer service, to remain consistent in their language and how they speak for the company to the outside world.
One of the reasons enterprises use Grammarly is to increase effectiveness both internally and externally, Hoover said. This isnt a tool to write on behalf of users but to be used as a coach. This is also where the tone tool fits into the spectrum, he added.
We surveyed our users and the results suggested that a majority were concerned about the appropriate tone that they used in written communication, he said. Thats not surprising because unlike spoken or in-person communications, you cant use non-verbal tones to get an idea across, so you can be misinterpreted.
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Fortnite is teasing a big Season 10 ending event with countdown clocks all over the island – GamesRadar
Posted: at 11:45 pm
It's been a controversial tenth season for Fortnite, what with the introduction of giant mechs called Brutes into the battlefield and the subsequent backlash and buffing that ensued. So when Epic announced that it was delaying the end of Season 10 by one week, players were a bit confused.
The official Epic post read, "Season X has been extended one week to conclude on Sunday, October 13. This also means an additional week to complete your Battle Pass, so jump in and lock down all those Season X rewards!" Now it's looking like the delay is to help Epic cook up something, well, epic for the end of the season. Countdown clocks have appeared all over the island, on TV screens and above the rocket at Dusty Depot. Right now there are six more days left on the countdown, coinciding with the day Season 10 ends: October 13.
Fortnite Season 9 ended with a Polar Peak monster and a Brute battling it out, the results of which led into the events of Season 10 - a singularity caused a time warp that sent the island back to the state it was in at the end of Season 3. The Visitor's Rocket appeared in Dusty Depot along with multiple rifts, which ushered in a bunch of crossovers like Batman and Borderlands.
Data miners are suggesting that Season 11 could usher in an entirely new map, in a move not unlike Apex Legends' recent map change for the game's own third season.
Another data miner found information to suggest that the event will transport players to a zone between Loot Lake and Dusty Depot, where they may be trapped in a time loop.
No word yet on when Fortnite Season 11 will start - new seasons usually begin the Thursday after a season-ending event, but this is the first time an event has been held on a Sunday. We could be seeing Season 11 a little earlier than expected...
Prepare yourself for the next season with our Fortnite tips to help you get that elusive Victory Royale.
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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.
See more talks from the Perth HPC Conference
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Posted: at 4:46 pm
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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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