Sebastian Thrun is the Founder-President of Udacity and the brains behind a lot of California’s brightest ideas. He is also a senior advisor at the Credit Suisse Lab in Silicon Valley, which is why, perhaps, Daniel Ammann and Simon Brunner of Credit Suisse spoke to him for the bank’s “Entrepreneurs” content offering.
“Technology gives us super-human powers” is the headline of the Ammann-Brunner interview and Thrun is as optimistic as the title. Snippet:
When we think about digital technologies, such as artificial intelligence for instance, are we also thinking about the nature of human beings then?
Exactly. With each new technology, we reexamine the human condition, humanity’s existence and our understanding of ourselves as human beings. It always revolves around the same thing: giving human beings super-human powers. We could not have talked to each other 150 years ago because our voices alone were not loud enough to be heard from the US to Switzerland. We could not swim across the Atlantic either; we’re simply not built to do it. Today, however, we talk over the Internet — or fly from Los Angeles to Zurich in 12 hours.
Daniel Ammann and Simon Brunner put it to Thrun at the end of their conversation that he must have enjoyed reading the science fiction of H. G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick, but he replies: “I preferred Heinrich Böll or Max Frisch. I’ve always been more interested in people than technologies. Technology is just a tool. In the long run, what concerns me in everything I do is people.”Tweet
The amazingly talented JT Singh describes himself as “city geneticist,” studying interactions, collisions and opportunities. A mix of urban futurist and media artist, he focuses on bridging the gaps between technology and storytelling.
“Shanghai’s iconic skyline is symbolic of its presence as a premier global city, but below the towers, the intimate, and human story that unfolds is what will always be part of the city’s core DNA,” he says. This is special.Tweet
Note the dates: 19 and 20 December. That’s when attendees at The International Congress on Love and Sex with Robots will explore “robot emotions, personalities, humanoid robots, intelligent electronic sex hardware and entertainment robots.” The event is taking place in Goldsmiths, University of London, after it was was banned in Malaysia. Sessions will address Robot Emotions, Teledildonics, Robot Personalities, Intelligent Electronic Sex Hardware and related issues.
David Levy, conference general chair, chess champion and author of Love and Sex with Robots says: “I believe that loving sex robots will be a great boon to society.There are millions of people out there who, for one reason or another, cannot establish good relationships.” It should be noted, however, that a group of scientists called for a ban on sex robots last year and created the Campaign Against Sex Robots.
This is the 21st century, after all.Tweet
With $4.89 trillion in its care, BlackRock is by far the world’s largest asset manager. The platform that unites all the BlackRock information, people and technology needed to handle all that money in real time is called Aladdin. “BlackRock wouldn’t be BlackRock without it,” the company says. While must of us are distracted by things that don’t really matter, this Skynet candidate continues to increase its intelligence.Tweet
Before he became a wandering minstrel, Sam Lee was a wilderness survival expert. Now, he spends time among marginal communities and uses his iPhone to save the remnants of their ballad culture, with its rich trove of stories about love, hate, wealth, poverty, parting, exile and sorrow. He collected the The Moss House in Wexford from an Irish singer called Sally Connors and it concludes his album The Fade In Time. My mother sang a version titled The Streams of Bunclody that included this verse:
“That’s why my love slights me, as you may understand
For she has a freehold and I have no land
She has a great store of riches and a fine sum of gold
And everything fitting a house to uphold.”
It sounds like something from Star Trek: The war of the Mirai and the XiongMai. But it’s neither Hollywood nor science fiction. It’s real. Yesterday, users of Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit, Spotify and Netflix experienced problems because Dyn, an internet infrastructure company that provides critical services to these sites, sustained a massive, malicious attack. Spearheading it was Mirai, malware that had hijacked digital video recorders and cameras made by XiongMai Technologies, a Chinese hi-tech company. Mirai trawls the web for cheap devices protected by just their factory-default usernames and passwords and then conscripts them for attacks that launch wave upon wave of junk traffic at targets until they can no longer serve legitimate users.
Only a week ago, US-CERT, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a warning titled “Heightened DDoS Threat Posed by Mirai and Other Botnets.” It pointed the finger at the vulnerability of the Internet of Things (IoT), “an emerging network of devices (e.g., printers, routers, video cameras, smart TVs) that connect to one another via the Internet, often automatically sending and receiving data.” According to US-CERT, “IoT devices have been used to create large-scale botnets — networks of devices infected with self-propagating malware — that can execute crippling distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. IoT devices are particularly susceptible to malware, so protecting these devices and connected hardware is critical to protect systems and networks.”
The solution? Security expert Brian Krebs is calling for a major, global effort to recall and remove vulnerable systems from the internet. “In my humble opinion, this global cleanup effort should be funded mainly by the companies that are dumping these cheap, poorly-secured hardware devices onto the market in an apparent bid to own the market. Well, they should be made to own the cleanup efforts as well.”Tweet
When Apple celebrated its 40th anniversary earlier this year, it made a commemorative video titled 40 Years in 40 Seconds. So, will it release a 10-second video next year to mark the 10th anniversary of the launching of the iPhone? Steve Jobs unveiled the magical device to the public on 9 January 2007 at the Macworld convention in San Francisco, and the first generation arrived in the shops on 29 June. Ten years later, it remains the best mobile phone on the market.
One school of thought believes Apple will ignore the anniversary completely and focus on the future, while another thinks that it will names next year’s version the “iPhone 10” and turn the anniversary into a major branding event. The feeling here is that the occasion will be marked in a special way on 9 January.
“Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. And Apple has been — well, first of all, one’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career.
Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.
In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry.
In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and… it didn’t just – it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry.
Well, today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class.
The first one: is a widescreen iPod with touch controls.
The second: is a revolutionary mobile phone.
And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.
So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device.
An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it?
These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.
Today, today Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.”
The poet Anthony Hecht died on this day in 2004. His work was filled with a passionate desire to confront the horrors of 20th century history, especially the Second World War, in which he fought. On 23 April 1945, Hecht’s division helped liberate the Bavarian concentration camp at Flossenbürg. Years later, he said of this experience, “The place, the suffering, the prisoners’ accounts were beyond comprehension. For years after I would wake shrieking.”
In an interview with the Paris Review, Hecht was asked what he did after his discharge from the US Army. His answer:
“I was consistently drunk for well over two weeks. My parents were particularly forbearing and indulgent about this. They kept me in full supply of booze. I think I drank day and night, and I fell asleep most nights on the floor of their New York apartment. The drink must have served as a sort of narcotic for everything unmentionable that had happened or that I saw during those years.”
Hecht was a great admirer of Robert Fitzgerald, the American translator whose renderings of the Greek classics became standard works for a generation of scholars and students. On Translation was dedicated to Fitzgerald.
Robert, how pleasantly tempting to surmise,
As Auden half suspected,
That heaven and the benign Italian skies
Are intimately connected;
And once there we shall truly be translated
In grand operatic style
And bella figura flourish, who are fated
To tarry here the while.
Amid hill towns and places where dwell
The blessed of heaven’s see,
They shall address you as Signor Freeztjell —
Me, Signor Hecate.
Anthony Hecht (1923 – 2004)
The director of Never Happened, Mark Slutsky, says: “Never Happened is set in a world much like our own, just a little different. A world in which we can manipulate our thoughts, our lives, just a little more than we already can. The technology in the film is fictional, but in many ways, I think we have always applied the same principles to the way we view our lives, the way we selectively tell ourselves our own stories.”Tweet
modding: “The act of changing a game to make it another, or add features previously unavailable, old, or previously non-existent. It is commonly done in PC games.” Source: Urban Dictionary
In an example of the kind of publicity that money simply cannot buy, this hilarious Grand Theft Auto V mod turns the notorious Samsung Galaxy Note 7 into a deadly weapon. It’s “da bomb,” as users of ancient slang might say.
Extra: Here is an audio clip of a Lufthansa pilot on a flight to Munich asking passengers not to use any “Galaxy S7 mobile phones.” The worry for Samsung now is that the contagion will spread across its range. The worry for road warriors is that all mobile devices powered by lithium-ion batteries might be banned from in-flight usage. Some travellers, though, would not be unhappy with such an outcome.Tweet
On Thursday, President Barack Obama will host the Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh to imagine the USA and the world in 50 years and beyond. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a growing role in this world and the White House has released a pre-conference report on considerations for AI called “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence” (PDF 1.1MB). The report looks at the state of AI, its existing and potential uses — data science, machine learning, automation, robotics — and the questions that it raises for society and policy. Snippet:
“Fairness, Safety, and Governance: As AI technologies gain broader deployment, technical experts and policy analysts have raised concerns about unintended consequences. The use of AI to make consequential decisions about people, often replacing decisions made by human actors and institutions, leads to concerns about how to ensure justice, fairness, and accountability—the same concerns voiced previously in the ‘Big Data’ context. The use of AI to control physical-world equipment leads to concerns about safety, especially as systems are exposed to the full complexity of the human environment.”