AI, Beggars, Fukushima, Wasps, Kiev


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Arms Race In Artificial Intelligence

Bernhard Zand & Christoph Scheuermann | Der Spiegel | 16th April 2018

Interview with machine-learning expert Pedro Domingos: “We’re constantly afraid of the machines revolting. This is not going to happen. What could happen, though, is that we voluntarily relinquish control to the machines because they’re so great. History shows how ready and willing we are to obey leaders and do what the gods say. We are psychologically totally prepared to put things in the hands of AI. But in the end, it’s not AI making the decisions, it is those who control AI” (3,150 words)

Britain’s Unruly Streets

Ian Jack | Guardian | 17th March 2018

Beggars were commonplace on British streets until the 1920s, when they were outlawed and disappeared. But this was merely “a respectable interlude”. Beggars returned in the 1970s and have thrived since. “Of more than 1,000 people arrested for begging in 2014, less than a fifth were legally defined as homeless. A year earlier the Daily Mail discovered a 37-year-old man in west London who allegedly earned £50,000 a year from begging, and lived rent-free in a £300,000 flat. (1,270 words)

As Innocuous As Plant Number One

William Vollmann | Longreads | 10th April 2018

A visit to the radioactive red zone around the site of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan. “There were places where weeds were just beginning to break through the asphalt of what had evidently once been magnificently maintained streets, while at the roadside a clamor of ivy, goldenrod, and other weeds almost obscured the houses behind them, with only a few roofs still showing, like the forecastles of sinking ships. A meter above one bit of weedy pavement I measured a cool 5.0 micros” (7,100 words)

An Inordinate Fondness For Wasps

Ed Yong | Atlantic | 6th April 2018

There may be a million species of wasp in the world — almost all of them preying on other insects in highly specialised ways. “There’s a wasp that takes cockroaches for walks after turning them into docile zombies, a wasp that forces spiders to spin a protective cocoon all while sucking them dry, a wasp that turns caterpillars into half-dead, head-banging bodyguards, a wasp that conscripts ladybirds into acting as babysitters. Their lives are grisly and sinister, but their abilities are incredible” (930 words)

The Killers Of Kiev

Joshua Hammer | GQ | 6th March 2018

Spillover violence from the war in eastern Ukraine has turned Kiev into a “gangland metropolis” where Kremlin-backed contract-killers settle scores on the streets. “In the past year half-a-dozen enemies of Putin’s regime have been killed or grievously injured in Kiev in bombings and shootings — outbreaks of chaos and violence that have cast an eerie pall over the city. The brutality is precise and targeted, and almost never causes collateral damage — even at its most spectacular” (5,300 words)

Video of the day Eroom’s Law

What to expect:

Venture capitalist Vijay Pande explains why biotechnology is suffering a Moore’s Law in reverse (3’50”)

Thought for the day

Every cultivated person is a theologian, and faith is not a requisite
Jorge Luis Borges

Podcast Fire From The Deep | Fast Forward

What if a huge submarine volcano erupts, breaks the surface of the ocean, and forms a new island?
(45m 10s)

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