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A Cheap, Portable Skin Cancer Detector Has Won the Dyson Award

Posted: 23 Nov 2017 09:25 AM PST

Meet sKan

Detecting skin cancer early isn’t easy. Currently, it’s done through visual inspections or biopsies, but some doctors may not pick up on the disease using the former, while some patients may not be able to afford the latter. As such, a team of graduates from McMaster University in Canada set out to develop an inexpensive skin cancer detector, and their innovative work has earned them the prestigious international James Dyson Award.

Cancer affects the metabolic rate of skin cells, with cancerous cells heating up faster than their healthy counterparts following a shock of cold temperature.

To make identifying these cells easier, the McMaster University team — Michael Takla, Rotimi Fadiya, Prateek Mathur, and Shivad Bhavsar — built a skin cancer detector with 16 thermistors that can track the rate of temperature increase following a cold shock from an ice pack.

The thermistors are simply placed on the potentially cancerous area of skin, and the device produces a heat map that can be used to determine the presence of melanoma.

"By using widely available and inexpensive components, the sKan allows for melanoma skin cancer detection to be readily accessible to the many" award founder James Dyson said in a statement announcing the win. "It's a very clever device with the potential to save lives around the world."

In addition to winning the Dyson Award for their skin cancer detector, the team also received a cash prize of approximately $40,000 to advance their research. They received $10,000 at the the Forge's Student Start-up Pitch competition in March.

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

According to Mathur, the team was inspired to create sKan after realizing technology hadn’t had the same impact on skin cancer diagnosis as it had on other medical fields.

"We found research that used the thermal properties of cancerous skin tissue as a means of detecting melanoma. However, this was done using expensive lab equipment,” he said in a McMaster University news release. “We set out to apply the research and invent a way of performing the same assessment using a more cost-effective solution."

Going forward, the sKan team hopes to create a more advanced prototype that will allow them to begin pre-clinical testing.

skin cancer detector
Image Credit: James Dyson Awards

As reported by The Guardian, nearly 39 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the U.K., and the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates 87,110 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. 2017, with 9,730 people dying from the condition. Early detection is key to cancer survival, so if sKan succeeds, it could significantly reduce that number.

"Our aspirations have become a reality," said Mathur. "Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer worldwide, and the potential to positively impact the lives of those affected is both humbling and motivating."

The post A Cheap, Portable Skin Cancer Detector Has Won the Dyson Award appeared first on Futurism.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Making Nuclear Reactors Safer

Posted: 23 Nov 2017 08:00 AM PST

“Naïve” Neural Networks

Engineers at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana are developing a new system for keeping nuclear reactors safe with artificial intelligence (AI). In the paper published in the IEEE Transactions on Industrial Electronics journal, the researchers introduced a deep learning framework called a naïve Bayes-convolutional neural network that can effectively identify cracks in reactors by analyzing individual video frames. The method could potentially make safety inspections safer.

"Regular inspection of nuclear power plant components is important to guarantee safe operations," Mohammad Jahanshahi, an assistant professor at Purdue's Lyles School of Civil Engineering, said in a press release. "However, current practice is time-consuming, tedious, and subjective and involves human technicians reviewing inspection videos to identify cracks in reactors."

Trained using a dataset of some 300,000 crack and non-crack patches, Purdue’s AI works by viewing video images of the reactors, which are often submerged under water to keep them cool, making them even more difficult to inspect manually. The AI scans each and detects cracks in overlapping “patches” of the video frames. Each crack is tracked from one frame to another using a data fusion algorithm.

“Data fusion comes up with more robust decision making than would otherwise be possible," said Jahanshahi, who noted that their AI scored a 98.3 success rate in identifying the cracks, which is significantly higher than even today’s most advanced approaches.

The “Holy Grail” of Renewable Energy

As the world continues to shift towards more renewable sources of energy, nuclear has presented itself as an option. One reason there’s increasing interest in nuclear as an alternative energy source is that it’s devoid of the usual limitations of solar and wind, which depend on the right conditions to generate power. The ultimate goal as many see it, however, is to harness the so-called “holy grail” of renewable energy: nuclear fusion.

While researchers have achieved considerable success in stabilizing and sustaining a fusion reaction, it will be some time yet before we can safely rely on it for our daily energy needs.

The viable type of nuclear power currently available to us come in the form of nuclear fission, which researchers around the world are working to improve. Experts are already making headway using molten-salt nuclear reactors; advanced nuclear reactors that use fluid rather than solids, meaning the salt can function as both the fuel and the coolant.

The safety system developed at Purdue could help bolster public support, which would ideally keep the nuclear option for alternative energy open. Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, 56 of the 99 major nuclear power accidents have occurred on U.S. soil (a nation where nuclear power accounts for 20 percent of the electricity generated).

"One important factor behind these incidents has been cracking that can lead to leaking," Jahanshahi explained. "Nineteen of the above incidents were related to cracking or leaking, costing $2 billion. Aging degradation is the main cause that leads to function losses and safety impairments caused by cracking, fatigue, embrittlement, wear, erosion, corrosion, and oxidation."

Keeping nuclear energy safe is, therefore, an important step in guaranteeing a wider adoption of what is, essentially, the most renewable energy source we have at our disposal. As such, nuclear energy would contribute a significant blow to the threat of climate change and global warming.

The post How Artificial Intelligence Is Making Nuclear Reactors Safer appeared first on Futurism.

Waymo’s Ride-Hailing Service Is Launching Soon With Fully Autonomous Cars

Posted: 23 Nov 2017 07:00 AM PST

Fully Autonomous Cars Are Here

Last month, reports began circulating claiming Waymo — Google’s/Alphabet’s self-driving division — would be launching a ride-hailing service within the next several months. Now, after eight years of development, Waymo has officially announced their cars are now fully autonomous, and will soon be providing transportation as part of a new ride-hailing service set to launch very soon.

Waymo made the announcement today via Medium, stating that after such a lengthy development, their cars are now “equipped with the unique safety features necessary for full autonomy, including backup steering, braking, computer and power that are capable of bringing the vehicle to a safe stop, if needed.”

First Arizona, Then the World

As reported by The Verge, Waymo’s fully autonomous cars have been in operation — without a human driver behind the wheel — on public Arizona streets since mid-October. Over the next few months, Waymo will invite members of the public to ride around in their vehicles, though there are a few things to take note of.

Laws and Ethics for Autonomous Cars
Click to View Full Infographic

First, a Waymo employee will be present inside the vehicle at all times, but instead of being in the driver’s seat, they’ll occupy the seat directly behind it. Furthermore, the ride-hailing service is locked to a specific part of Arizona — within a 100-square-mile area of Chandler, a suburb in Phoenix. That said, Waymo aims to expand to other areas after it has collected more data and their vehicles have taken more trips.

“Over time, we'll cover a region that's larger than the size of Greater London, and we'll add more vehicles as we grow,” said Waymo.

With today’s news, Waymo is the first company to have fully self-driving cars on the road. While it is currently exclusive to Arizona residents, it’s the clearest sign yet that autonomous cars are here to stay, and they’re already making changes to the way people travel.

The post Waymo’s Ride-Hailing Service Is Launching Soon With Fully Autonomous Cars appeared first on Futurism.

Holograms Come to Life in the World’s First Interactive Lightfield Display

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:38 PM PST

Interactive Holograms

Hologram technology has come a long way since Princess Leia delivered a hologram message to Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Within the past few years, holograms have gone from a science fiction fantasy to a tangible technology. From tabletop holograms to a “smart” artificially intelligent (AI) hologram, the field is booming.

Looking Glass, a self-described “team of inventors, engineers, game devs, and out-of-work comedians chasing the dream of the hologram,” have unveiled the Holoplayer One, the world’s first-ever interactive lightfield display. 

The Holoplayer One looks almost like a laptop: it’s a compact device that allows you to both create and interact with a 3-dimensional display. It requires no specialized glasses or hardware aside from the device itself.

Creating in 3D

Other lightfield displays have recently hit the mainstream, and its immediate applications are easy to see — especially within the visual arts field. From graphic design to animation, the ability to physically manipulate a 3-dimensional display could revolutionize how we create and expand technical capabilities in a creative sense.

But beyond art, interactive holograms could prove to play a major role in other fields as well. In the medical sector, physicians could potentially use this type of technology with advanced imaging, giving them a better and more comprehensive view of the human body.

While lightfield displays are certainly not brand new, the ability to interact with a hologram truly changes the potential of this emerging technological field.

The post Holograms Come to Life in the World’s First Interactive Lightfield Display appeared first on Futurism.

A New Vehicle Has More Energy Capacity Than a Tesla and More Torque Than a Tank

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 03:09 PM PST

Going Off-Road

With sedans, SUVs, semi trucks, and even buses being converted to run on electricity, it was only matter of time before off-road vehicles were given the same treatment. In this particular case,  however, it’s an off-road vehicle with capabilities that outmatch most EVs in production and even some heavy-duty tanks.

Enter the Nikola Zero UTV (utility task vehicles) from Nikola Powersports, a vehicle that enables drivers to take their trip off-road and drive for miles without the harmful carbon dioxide emissions.

The Nikola Zero has a base price of $35,000 and currently has two models: one that has 415 horsepower and another with 555 horsepower. Both models can be equipped with a 75 kWh, 100 kWh or 125 kWh battery pack, with the final option enabling the vehicle to travel nearly 321 km (200 miles) on a single charge. Even the lesser battery capacity will still allow for a range beyond 160 km (100 miles).

Side view of the Nikola Zero. Image Credit: Nikola Motor
Side view of the Nikola Zero. Image Credit: Nikola Motor

For comparison, the biggest battery you can get for a Tesla vehicle is 100 kWh — and that’s only for the Model S and Model X. The long-awaited Model 3 caps out at 75 kWh. Tesla still has the Nikola Zero beat when it comes to range — though to be fair, the models were designed with different goals in mind.

According to Wired, Nikola Powersports designed the Zero for rock crawling and towing farm equipment, and it uses similar tech to its electric semi trucks — Nikola One and Nikola Two. Surprisingly enough, it can still go from 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds, putting it on par with the Model S (2.5 – 4.2 seconds), but faster than the Model 3 (5.1 – 5.6 seconds).

More Torque Than You’ll Ever Need

The Nikola Zero is already impressive enough when compared to other cars, but its specifications make it out to have more power than the M1 Abrams battle tank. Compared to the M1 Abrams’ 3900 ft-lbs of torque, the Zero has 4,900 ft-lbs of torque — nearly 1,222 ft-lbs. of torque at each of its 4 wheels. When up against five diesel-powered UTVs in a tug-of-war contest of strength, Wired reports Nikola CEO Trevor Milton saying his Zero would “tear them to pieces.”

Overhead view of the Nikola Zero. Image Credit: Nikola Motor
Overhead view of the Nikola Zero. Image Credit: Nikola Motor

Nikola elaborates on the Zero’s significant amount of horsepower and torque in their FAQ section, saying, “The advantage of the electric motor is that you only use what you need, when you need it. You are not penalized by having electric motors with greater HP and Torque.”

The FAQ goes on to explain that “The motors only take the exact amount of energy they need to perform as directed and not a kilowatt more. So when you need that extra horsepower and torque to climb a hill or tow, you have it. When you don’t need it, you don’t use it.”

If everything about the Nikola Zero makes it sound like it’d be perfect for you, you can reserve one today with a $750 deposit. They don’t go on sale until January, so expect pre-orders to be fulfilled sometime in 2018.

The post A New Vehicle Has More Energy Capacity Than a Tesla and More Torque Than a Tank appeared first on Futurism.

Russia Finally Admitted the Radiation Cloud Over Europe Is Real

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 02:55 PM PST

It’s Confirmed

In September 2017, multiple monitoring agencies detected an unusual amount of radiation hovering over much of Europe. Several European nations suggested that the source of the radiation cloud might have been Russia. Meanwhile, Russian authorities denied even detecting the cloud — until now.

On November 21, Russian meteorological services agency Roshydromet corroborated the findings of the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRNS), one of the monitoring agencies that first spotted the elevated levels of ruthenium-106, the radioactive isotope of the rare heavy metal ruthenium.

On November 9, the IRNS said that it had detected ruthenium-106 over France from September 27 to October 13 at levels of a few milliBecquerels per cubic meter of air. Their measurements pointed to a potential source of the radiation cloud as being somewhere between the Volga and the Urals, a Russian river and mountain range, respectively.

Image Credit: IRSN

Roshydromet confirmed “extremely high contamination,” detecting levels of ruthenium-106 1,000 times higher than normal in samples examined by two meteorological stations in the southern region of the Ural Mountains. This is consistent with the French findings.

However, Roshydromet head Maxim Yakovenko said the nation wasn’t the cause of the radiation cloud. “The published data is not sufficient to establish the location of the pollution source,” he said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Rosatom, the state-controlled corporation in charge of Russia's nuclear industry, said that the radiation didn’t come from any of their facilities, the Associated Press reports.

Cause for Concern?

So, should Europeans be worried that higher than normal levels of radioactive isotopes have been hovering over the continent?

According to the IRNS, the answer is “No.” In their report, they note that the levels of ruthenium-106 detected in Europe “are of no consequence for human health and for the environment.” Since October 13, they haven’t even detected any traces of the isotope over France.

Malcolm Sperrin, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust Department of Medical Physics and Clinical Engineering director, said in a comment shared by the Science Media Centre that it’s important to keep this in context.

“Ruthenium is very rare, and hence its presence may suggest that an event of some nature has occurred. That being said, the natural abundance is so low that even a factor of 900 up on natural levels is still very low,” he said.

These Are The Worst Nuclear Disasters in History (Infographic)
Click to View Full Infographic

University of Surrey nuclear physics professor Paddy Regan shared this optimism in his own comment for Science Media Centre.

"The levels are not particularly high, and the fact that the isotope […] decay appears to have been measured in isolation, rather than with the usual cocktail of other fission fragment signatures suggests a leak from a fuel/reprocessing plant or somewhere they are separating the [ruthenium], possibly for use as a medical radiopharmaceutical/diagnostic material,” he said.

If anything is a cause for concern, it may be Russian authorities’ hesitancy to confirm and share information about the radiation. The nation kept the details of the world’s third worst nuclear accident, the Kyshtym disaster, a secret for nearly two decades, and such secrecy of any future nuclear incidents could stymie efforts to safeguard a population from potential harm.

The post Russia Finally Admitted the Radiation Cloud Over Europe Is Real appeared first on Futurism.

JPMorgan Is Considering Giving Their Clients Access to a New Bitcoin Product

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 01:03 PM PST

JPMorgan and Bitcoin

Bitcoin has had an exciting year. It has split in two, become more accepted as a form of payment, and soared in value, now resting above $8,000. There’s also that small matter of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the world’s leading derivatives marketplace, announcing plans to introduce bitcoin futures in 2017 — an announcement that some credit with pushing the cryptocurrency above the $8,000 threshold.

The bitcoin developments continued on November 21 when The Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan Chase is considering giving their clients access to CME’s bitcoin future via their own futures-brokerage unit.

As the WSJ explains, the move would enable JPMorgan customers to bet on bitcoin’s prices — specifically, whether they increase or decrease. JPMorgan, meanwhile, would charge a fee for providing access to CME’s service, presumably in the hopes of profiting from it.

This would be a somewhat ironic development for JPMorgan because CEO James Dimon has criticized bitcoin in the past, telling attendees at September’s Delivering Alpha conference that the crypto is a “fraud” and “just not a real thing.” At another event, he said that anyone trading bitcoin is “stupid” and that any JPMorgan traders caught doing so would be fired. That said, no employees have claimed to have lost their jobs for such reasons just yet.

Impending Launch

CME is expected to launch their bitcoin futures contract before the end of 2017, though that launch could be delayed or put on hold by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which has to grant approval. As for JPMorgan’s reported service, its launch largely depends on demand, according to the WSJ’s source — if enough JPMorgan customers aren’t clamoring for bitcoin futures, it probably won’t happen.

The actions of other companies, such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, could influence JPMorgan’s decision as well.

Goldman Sachs is currently exploring ways to trade cryptocurrencies, while Morgan Stanley — according to the WSJ’s source — is contemplating a move similar to JPMorgan’s. JPMorgan likely wouldn’t want to be left out if the majority of other companies were involved in bitcoin trading.

Only time will tell how this situation plays out, but bitcoin’s growing popularity and continually increasing prices suggest the crypto is not going away anytime soon. JPMorgan CEO James Dimon may soon find himself forced to acknowledge that bitcoin is “a real thing.” Many others certainly have.

Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.

The post JPMorgan Is Considering Giving Their Clients Access to a New Bitcoin Product appeared first on Futurism.

No, A Doctor Did Not Perform the First Human Head Transplant

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 12:47 PM PST

Although the doctor planning a human head transplant insists it’s possible, medical professionals remain skeptical.

The post No, A Doctor Did Not Perform the First Human Head Transplant appeared first on Futurism.

Uber and NASA Are Bringing Us High-Speed Flying Taxis by 2020

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 12:40 PM PST

Uber’s futuristic flying taxis will cost the same as an UberX today.

The post Uber and NASA Are Bringing Us High-Speed Flying Taxis by 2020 appeared first on Futurism.

Uber Reveals Long-Kept Hacking That Jeopardized Data From 57 Million People

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 12:12 PM PST

Another Hacking Incident

In today’s world, where information comes easily, one would think that it would have been impossible for ride-hailing giant Uber to keep silent about a massive system hack that happened in 2016. Well, apparently, they were able to keep a lid on it, and even CEO Dara Khosrowshahi didn’t know about the security breach until recently.

In a report that first appeared in Bloomberg, Uber admitted that data on 57 million customers and drivers was compromised by hackers last year. A pair of hackers stole data containing the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of 57 million Uber users, as well as the driver’s licenses of some 600,000 Uber drivers in the United States.

Khosroshani confirmed the theft in a statement issued on November 2I. “I recently learned that in late 2016 we became aware that two individuals outside the company had inappropriately accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service that we use,” the Uber CEO wrote. Supposedly, the hackers accessed a private GitHub coding site that Uber software engineers use, and logged in using security credentials stored in an Amazon Web Services account.

“The incident did not breach our corporate systems or infrastructure,” Khosroshani added. Uber confirmed to NPR that there was no forensic evidence indicating that the hackers got hold of more sensitive data, such as the trip location history of Uber users, their credit card or bank account information, Social Security numbers, or dates of birth.

A source close to Uber told Bloomberg that the company paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen data and keep quiet about the incident, although the company has yet to confirm if the data was, in fact, deleted. The source also told NPR that it was security officer Joe Sullivan and one of his deputies that ensured the hack wasn’t made public. Uber has since fired Sullivan and the deputy.

Security Doesn’t Hack It

This news follows a series of mishaps Uber has recently been involved in, from the high-profile firing of former CEO Travis Kalanick to more recent regulatory troubles in Quebec and the Philippines, and an outright ban of the ride-hailing service in London.

But perhaps bigger than any of these issues is the underlying problem behind the hack, which is not unique to Uber. In the past several years, hackers have infiltrated several big companies, including Target Corp., Sony Pictures, Anthem Inc., and more recently, Equifax Inc. Other equally disturbing hacking incidents include the massive email hack of a candidate in a recent French election, the U.S. Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack in 2016, as well as the WannaCry attack in May that crippled hospitals.

Naturally, the prevalence of such security breaches has raised concerns and fears over the inadequacies of today’s cybersecurity systems, which include data encryption and a number of security tools that prevent malware from accessing data servers and networks. All of these, however, have proven to be ineffective against a determined and skilled hacker.

The continued advancement of computing systems is making things even more difficult, especially with increasingly more complex machine learning systems that make it harder to distinguish between humans and computers. All of these developments require more advanced and sophisticated security measures.

Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the need for improved cybersecurity, but they need to act faster and band together, as Microsoft president Brad Smith recently told the United Nations. In fact, some have even proposed that cybersecurity be considered an absolute human right.

The post Uber Reveals Long-Kept Hacking That Jeopardized Data From 57 Million People appeared first on Futurism.

New Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Poised To Transform Humanity

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:54 AM PST

Prosthetics and Mind Control

According to studies presented at Neuroscience 2017, the annual gathering of the Society for Neuroscience, technology that allows prosthetics to be controlled by the human brain is progressing at an unprecedented rate.

There are millions of people around the world that are unable to use some part of their body as a result of illness, injury, or amputation. While the field of prosthetics has come a long way, even the best solutions typically only offer partial functionality.

“Unlike many pharmacological or biologic therapies to help people with neurological injuries or disease, engineering solutions have the potential for immediate and sometimes dramatic restoration of function,” said Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital, Brown University, a neurotechnology expert who moderated the conference. “It is really exciting to see how the growth of fundamental neuroscience and neuroengineering research over many years is leading to the creation of technologies that will help to reduce the burden of neurological and psychiatric disease.”

However, we’re now able to create prosthetics that interface directly with the human nervous system and organic tissue. By leveraging advances in brain-computer interfaces, we might be able to produce replacement body parts that offer far more capability than is currently available.

The findings presented at the event included word that neural signals from a spinal cord taken from a rodent had been used to control cultured muscle fibers in a lab setting. This could cultivate further investigations into how the nervous system controls the movement of a body.

An amputee’s prosthetic hand was also shown to improve the subject’s motor skills and reduce phantom pain, contributing to a greater sense of ownership over the replacement body part. Furthermore, a tetraplegic patient was seen to adapt their neural activity in order to maintain control of a brain-computer interface.

These developments are all very encouraging in their own right, but taken as a whole they demonstrate just how quickly this field is progressing forward. The next few years should yield some impressive results in terms of new prosthetics – and we’re already seeing some groundbreaking projects come to pass.

Augmented Humans

It’s a grim reality that soldiers often need prosthetic limbs once their tour of duty comes to an end. To that end, the US Department of Veteran Affairs has become a major force in pushing forward the state of prosthetics. The research and development that it supports doesn’t just benefit military personnel, but all manner of people.

The First Cyborg Olympics [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Lots of work is being done to ensure that replacement limbs are better than ever before – but it’s not just the top tier of prosthetics that are being improved. 3D printing is allowing for solutions to become more widely available and at a lower cost.

The ability to replace body parts isn’t just limited to prosthetic limbs. A 3D printed heart recently underwent trials, and could reportedly perform all the functions of the real thing. There are even ongoing efforts to create wireless ‘cyborg eyes’ that would allow blind people to see once again.

New advances in brain-computer interfaces could benefit all kinds of projects. Whether it’s a replacement eye, or a prosthetic leg, the ability to control the synthetic body part as naturally as possible is a huge step forward from previous methodology.

The post New Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Poised To Transform Humanity appeared first on Futurism.

Elon Musk Claims We Only Have a 10 Percent Chance of Making AI Safe

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:37 AM PST

Outlook Not So Good

Elon Musk has put a lot of thought into the harsh realities and wild possibilities of artificial intelligence (AI). These considerations have left him convinced that we need to merge with machines if we’re to survive, and he’s even created a startup dedicated to developing the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology needed to make that happen. But despite the fact that his very own lab, OpenAI, has created an AI capable of teaching itself, Musk recently said that efforts to make AI safe only have “a five to 10 percent chance of success.”

Musk shared these less-than-stellar odds with the staff at Neuralink, the aforementioned BCI startup, according to recent Rolling Stone article. Despite Musk’s heavy involvement in the advancement of AI, he’s openly acknowledged that the technology brings with it not only the potential for, but the promise of serious problems.

The challenges to making AI safe are twofold.

First, a major goal of AI — and one that OpenAI is already pursuing — is building AI that’s not only smarter than humans, but that is capable of learning independently, without any human programming or interference. Where that ability could take it is unknown.

Then there is the fact that machines do not have morals, remorse, or emotions. Future AI might be capable of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” actions, but distinctly human feelings remain just that — human.

Types of AI: From Reactive to Self-Aware [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

In the Rolling Stone article, Musk further elaborated on the dangers and problems that currently exist with AI, one of which is the potential for just a few companies to essentially control the AI sector. He cited Google’s DeepMind as a prime example.

“Between Facebook, Google, and Amazon — and arguably Apple, but they seem to care about privacy — they have more information about you than you can remember,” said Musk. “There’s a lot of risk in concentration of power. So if AGI [artificial general intelligence] represents an extreme level of power, should that be controlled by a few people at Google with no oversight?”

Worth the Risk?

Experts are divided on Musk’s assertion that we probably can’t make AI safe. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has said he’s optimistic about humanity’s future with AI, calling Musk’s warnings “pretty irresponsible.” Meanwhile, Stephen Hawking has made public statements wholeheartedly expressing his belief that AI systems pose enough of a risk to humanity that they may replace us altogether.

Sergey Nikolenko, a Russian computer scientist who specializes in machine learning and network algorithms, recently shared his thoughts on the matter with Futurism. “I feel that we are still lacking the necessary basic understanding and methodology to achieve serious results on strong AI, the AI alignment problem, and other related problems,” said Nikolenko.

As for today’s AI, he thinks we have nothing to worry about. “I can bet any money that modern neural networks will not suddenly wake up and decide to overthrow their human overlord,” said Nikolenko.

Musk himself might agree with that, but his sentiments are likely more focused on how future AI may build on what we have today.

Already, we have AI systems capable of creating AI systems, ones that can communicate in their own languages, and ones that are naturally curious. While the singularity and a robot uprising are strictly science fiction tropes today, such AI progress makes them seem like genuine possibilities for the world of tomorrow.

But these fears aren’t necessarily enough reason to stop moving forward. We also have AIs that can diagnose cancer, identify suicidal behavior, and help stop sex trafficking.

The technology has the potential to save and improve lives globally, so while we must consider ways to make AI safe through future regulation, Musk’s words of warning are, ultimately, just one man’s opinion.

He even said as much himself to Rolling Stone: “I don’t have all the answers. Let me be really clear about that. I’m trying to figure out the set of actions I can take that are more likely to result in a good future. If you have suggestions in that regard, please tell me what they are.”

The post Elon Musk Claims We Only Have a 10 Percent Chance of Making AI Safe appeared first on Futurism.

World Governments Launch International Alliance to Eradicate Coal by 2030

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:23 AM PST

Anti-Coal Alliance

The UK and Canada have come together to launch an international partnership, in the hopes of advancing efforts to transition away from using coal as an energy source. The Powering Past Coal Alliance was announced at the COP23 climate talks hosted by the United Nations.

“Reducing global coal consumption should be a vital and urgent priority for all countries and states,” said the UK’s Minister for Climate Change and Industry, Claire Perry. “The Powering Past Coal Alliance will signal to the world that the time of coal has passed. The UK is committed to completely phasing out unabated coal-fire power generation no later than 2025 and we hope to inspire others to follow suit.”

In November 2016, the UK government detailed its plans to move away from coal power by 2025, an initiative that would hinge upon the closure of its eight remaining coal-fired power plants. This year, the UK managed to use no coal for a 24 hour period for the first time in 135 years.

Canada also confirmed its intention to end its reliance on coal last year, but gave a deadline of 2030. The country is already making great strides, having generated more than half of its energy needs from renewable sources in 2015.

Following the UK and Canada’s lead, more than twenty partners have already signed up to be a part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. It’s hoped that there will be as many as 50 countries comprising the initiative by this time next year.

The group has two main priorities. The first is setting firm targets for the timeline governing how soon coal will be phased out. The second is a commitment to no further investment in coal-fired electricity, whether it’s located within a country’s own jurisdiction or abroad.

The Paris Agreement

The Paris Climate Agreement, which was established in October 2016, laid out a target of preventing global temperatures from rising more than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. It’s projected that countries who are enrolled in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development need to phase out coal by 2030.

Paris Climate Agreement
Click to View Full Infographic

However, the Powering Past Coal Alliance acknowledges that it’s not possible for every nation to work at the same pace. To help make sure that the transition can be made as swiftly as possible, the group will collaborate with businesses, civil society, and governments to provide technical and practical assistance.

“Phasing out coal power is good news for the climate, for our health, and for our kids,” said the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna. “Coal is literally choking our cities, with close to a million people dying every year from coal pollution. I'm thrilled to see so much global momentum for the transition to clean energy – and this is only the beginning.”

The post World Governments Launch International Alliance to Eradicate Coal by 2030 appeared first on Futurism.

Scientists Created a Synthetic Molecule, and It Could End Antibiotic Resistance

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 11:18 AM PST

Transfer Prevention

Antibiotic resistance in bacteria, which includes both common bugs and so-called superbugs, is a serious and globally recognized problem. In fact, the United Nations elevated the issue to a crisis level almost a year ago now, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that it’s rapidly worsening.

There are a multitude of possible responses to antibiotic resistance, and researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) in Canada may have found another potential solution. In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports earlier this November, this team of researchers from UdeM’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine explored a method that could block the transfer of antibiotic resistance genes.

The researchers focused on preventing a mechanism that allows for antibiotic resistance genes to be coded onto plasmids —which are DNA fragments that can carry genes that encode the proteins that render bacteria drug-resistant. Concretely, they found the exact binding sites for these proteins, which are essential in plasmid transfer. This allowed them to design more potent chemical molecules which reduce the transfer of gene-carrying, antibiotic-resistant plasmids.

“You want to be able to find the ‘soft spot’ on a protein, and target it and poke it so that the protein cannot function,” Christian Baron, the vice-dean of R&D at UdeM’s faculty of medicine, said in a press release. “Other plasmids have similar proteins, some have different proteins, but I think the value of our study on TraE is that by knowing the molecular structure of these proteins we can devise methods to inhibit their function.”

A Deadly Problem

The effects of antibiotic resistant bacteria are pretty much self-explanatory. Antibiotics remain a critical piece of modern medicine, and when they become ineffective, what we’re left with are disease-causing superbugs that are much more difficult to treat and manage. Antibiotics are also used as prophylactic treatment during surgeries as well as in cancer therapies.

According to a report by a special commission set up in the United Kingdom in 2014 called the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, drug-resistant bacteria could take the lives of some 10 million people by 2050. This isn’t particularly difficult to imagine since antibiotic-resistant bacteria infect 2 million people in the U.S. alone every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and at least 23,000 of these cases are fatal. Additionally, the WHO reports that there are about 480,000 of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis cases around the world every year.

In short, antibiotic resistance is a problem we need to solve as soon as possible, starting now. Thankfully, there are a number of groups working on the issue, with a variety of approaches. Some have used CRISPR gene-editing to engineer synthetic nanobots that specifically target antibiotic-resistant bacteria and there are even efforts to employ “super enzymes” to fight off superbugs. Meanwhile, others like the UdeM researchers are focusing on a better understanding of how bacteria work to develop methods to render them more susceptible to antibiotics.

The CDC has already invested more than $14 million to fund research into antibiotic resistance, and we might soon see these efforts come to fruition. This will take time, obviously, but it could help to liven up the pace by which new drugs are produced. As Baron said, “[p]eople should have hope. Science will bring new ideas and new solutions to this problem. There’s a big mobilization now going on in the world on this issue. I wouldn’t say I feel safe, but it’s clear we’re making progress.”

The post Scientists Created a Synthetic Molecule, and It Could End Antibiotic Resistance appeared first on Futurism.

Mercedes-Benz Just Unveiled New All Electric Plans

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 10:56 AM PST

Going Electric

Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this week that it will add electric drive to its commercial vans, making them more environmentally friendly and relevant as society shifts away from diesel-powered vehicles. The move comes after parent company Daimler stated it would invest $10 billion in electric vehicles.

The shift starts with their new mid-size eVito van, which comes installed with a 41.4 kWh, enabling it to travel up to 150 km (93 miles) on a single charge; its 84 kW electric motor allows to to achieve a top speed of 120 km/h (74 mph). The automaker is now taking orders for the eVito, though orders will not be fulfilled and delivered until “the second half of 2018.” After the 2018 launch, additional models will follow in 2019.

"We are convinced by the necessity of electric drive in our vans, especially in city center applications,” said Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, in a statement. “That said, electrification of the commercial fleet is not an end in itself, but follows the same principles as a classic drive when it comes to profitability. With our eDrive@VANs initiative, we're showing that only holistic mobility solutions extending beyond the drive itself present a real alternative for commercial customers. The eVito is the starting point and will be followed by the new -generation of our Sprinter as well as the Citan.”

Steady Competition for Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz and Daimler have revealed multiple non-diesel-powered vehicles this year, including a hydrogen-powered SUV and their electric semi truck. Of course, they aren’t the only companies with big plans for the future of transportation. Earlier this month, Volkswagen committed to investing $40 billion into electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, while General Motors is making moves to launch 20 electric cars by 2023.

Even within the service industry, Daimler and Mercedes are not alone in their actions. Tesla is redesigning their service vans using the Model S and Model X designs. UPS, meanwhile, hopes to convert nearly 1,500 of their trucks in New York City to electric by 2020.

Mercedes and Daimler are going to have fierce competition in the coming years, and the results can only lead to better products. It’s only a matter of time before the automotive world is changed forever.

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Google Just Admitted to Tracking Your Location Even When You Have the Settings Disabled

Posted: 22 Nov 2017 10:49 AM PST

Where Are You?

We all know that smartphones and other mobile devices might use your location to expand the capabilities of various apps and services. However, while these apps typically require the user’s permission, there is now evidence that Android phones might be sending information back to Google without explicit authorization.

Since the start of 2017, Android devices have been recording the location of nearby cellular towers and relaying that information back to Google. This process was carried out even in devices that had location services disabled and no SIM card installed.

This activity continued by using the same mechanism that Google uses to transmit notifications and messages to users. The company has since admitted to the practice, claiming that it never actually used or stored the data, and pledging that it will stop recording the information by the end of November 2017.

“In January of this year, we began looking into using Cell ID codes as an additional signal to further improve the speed and performance of message delivery,” said a Google spokesperson in email correspondence with Quartz. “However, we never incorporated Cell ID into our network sync system, so that data was immediately discarded, and we updated it to no longer request Cell ID.”

It’s thought that all modern Android smartphones were subject to this method of tracking over the course of 2017. According to current knowledge, if you own an Android device and you made a connection to a cellular network or Wi-Fi within 2017, it seems that your location was being recorded.

Eye in the Sky

On the surface, your phone taking note of nearby cellular towers may seem relatively innocuous. However, while looking at one tower wouldn’t give an exact location, cross-referencing several towers does give a fairly precise indication of where the device is.

This is a fairly enormous invasion of privacy. People have all kinds of reasons for turning off location services, and the system that was in place essentially disregarded these preferences and recorded the data regardless.

Google’s privacy policy does state that anyone who uses the company’s services is subject to having their location tracked. However, it doesn’t say anything specific about whether or not this continues to apply when location services have been disabled. It remains to be seen whether the policy will be amended in light of these practices being uncovered.

The company apparently distinguishes between its push notifications, messaging services, and location services. As such, even if users disabled location services, there is no way to opt out of the former two.

Companies like Google can use the location data of their customers to provide more targeted advertising materials, which allows them to make more money. Large-scale tracking efforts like this might be invasive, but they’re likely to become more and more common as the biggest tech companies seek out new ways to monetize their user base.

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