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Should Twitter’s Ban on Hateful Content Apply to President Trump?

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 10:02 AM PST


On December 18, 2017, Twitter began enforcing updated rules designed to “reduce hateful and abusive content” on the social networking platform. Specifically, the revised policies cover “threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people.”

According to Twitter’s updated policy, users that associate with identified threatening accounts, as well as those who share hateful imagery, are liable to be suspended or banned. The policy specifically calls out accounts that “affiliate with organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes” and “content that glorifies violence or the perpetrators of a violent act.”

The rules are fairly clear and quite comprehensive, and Twitter has already begun enforcing them.

One of the first accounts Twitter banned was that of anti-Islam group Britain First, and the move has drawn some criticism, not because the account was removed, but because the popular account of U.S. President Donald Trump — who has retweeted Britain First’s anti-Muslim videos — didn’t seem to be subject to the same policy.

The Britain First video retweet isn’t the only Trump Twitter activity that critics believe violates the platform’s policy against violent threats. More recently, the “nuclear button tweet,” a response to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement about his nuclear arsenal, has drawn criticism.

So, why doesn’t Twitter’s updated policy apply to the President’s account?

The answer is included directly in the updated rules: “This policy does not apply to military or government entities, and we will consider exceptions for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.”

This rather important qualifier gives Trump and every other official government account immunity from the policies that apply to the rest of Twitter’s user base. But why would Twitter choose to include this exception?

“I'm not sure it's ‘fair,’ but I'm fairly certain that Twitter does not want to get involved in adjudicating political language,” Gerald C. Kane, Information Systems professor at the Carroll School Management at Boston College, told Futurism. “I think they're specifically putting this in so that they can begin to target bullying, but not get drawn into the political discussion more than necessary.”

Additionally, Kane notes that retweeting and actually composing an original tweet aren’t exactly equal levels of endorsement of the content.

“One can hit ‘retweet’ in a single click without really thinking about or knowing the content involved. Tweeting itself actually requires putting together a reasonably coherent string of characters — most of the time,” Kane told Futurism. “So, if you base it solely on effort required, then a tweet is 280 times more significant than a retweet — whatever that's worth.”

The Power of a Tweet

With an average of 500 million tweets sent per day, it would seem like a single one couldn’t have much of an impact, but that’s not true. Today, social media plays an undeniable role in public discourse, and one cannot discount the effect of a tweet.

“Even Twitter, which isn’t on the scale of the giants, has a disproportionate influence on public discourse,” Andrew Clement, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information and coordinator for the Information Policy Research Program (IPRP), told Futurism.

As Kane notes, social media goes hand in hand with so-called traditional media today, and often the latter looks to the former for news or stories.

“For example, while I follow Donald Trump on Twitter, I am far more likely to hear about his tweets on the traditional news than I am to see them on Twitter,” he explained.

Twitter's updated policy
Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

As Kane told Futurism, this relationship between old and new media is still developing. “While I think social media will continue to shape public opinion, the more important question is whether and how traditional/social media complement each other to influence public opinion,” Kane said. “I think that's a complex question that requires some soul-searching on behalf of media companies and societies.”

Ultimately, according to Clement, Twitter’s updated policy excluding official government accounts from the same rules that the rest of the platform’s users follow is “troubling” as it suppresses expression in an arbitrary way. He asserts that there is an urgent need for uniform standards that are “defined by legislative and judicial processes informed by fundamental human rights and a robust public debate.”

At any rate, Twitter’s updated policy — while it may seem unfair — is absolutely necessary at present as it eliminates at least some of the platform’s hateful content while maintaining the direct line between citizens and those who govern them.

The post Should Twitter’s Ban on Hateful Content Apply to President Trump? appeared first on Futurism.

A Bipartisan Group of U.S. Senators Has a Plan to Secure Future Elections

Posted: 04 Jan 2018 06:50 AM PST

Looking Ahead

Not long after 2000’s tumultuous presidential election, the United States began adopting electronic/paperless voting systems. Almost immediately, experts voiced concerns about the security of these voting machines, and the issue came to a head in 2016, when reports of Russian involvement in the U.S. presidential election surfaced.

While investigators didn’t find any evidence of external interference with voting machines, they did conclude that voting systems were probed prior to the 2016 election. To protect future U.S. elections against interference from outside agents and foreign governments, a bipartisan group of six senators has introduced the Secure Elections Act.

Secure Elections Act
Your voting decision should count in a secure voting system. Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay

"Russia attacked the very heart of our democracy when they interfered in the 2016 election. With the 2018 elections just around the corner, Russia will be back to interfere again," co-sponsor Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) stated in a press release.

“We must act now to fortify our election system against attacks by foreign powers in a way that is smart and allows for effective communication and information-sharing between election and intelligence officials," said Harris.

Flaws in the System

As election security is an issue that affects all parties equally, the bill stands a better than average chance of passing, and if it does, it will address two major flaws in the U.S. elections system.

The first is the paperless voting systems themselves.

“Computer scientists were worried about them from the start…they were being rolled out too fast and without effective security standards,” Alex Halderman, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, told Ars Technica. “In every single case, when a machine was brought into the lab and studied by qualified researchers, the result was the discovery of significant vulnerabilities that could allow the machines to be compromised with malicious software that could potentially steal votes.”

States are not blind to these faults, and some have already started to move away from using paperless voting systems. Unfortunately, others have not been able to make the move due to budget constraints. To that end, the Secure Elections Act would give states grants they could use to replace these systems.

The second is how states conduct, or don’t conduct, post-election audits.

Recounts are often only conducted if an election outcome is very close, but if every election, especially major elections, ended with a review and an audit, it would drastically improve security while also removing any stigma associated with recounts. The Secure Elections Act would encourage states to adopt more sophisticated statistical procedures to verify ballots, ensuring they don’t count too many or too few.

The bill would also create an advisory committee staffed by election security experts who would develop a set of election auditing standards. States willing to improve their election procedures following those standards could apply for money to help them do so. If states were forced to recount large numbers of ballots due to a particularly close initial result, they could be reimbursed for their efforts through an insurance pool established by the bill.

While this legislation is ambitious, voting security is of the utmost importance for a democratic system. All citizens deserve to have their votes accurately counted, and the Secure Elections Act could help ensure that that’s the case for the 2018 elections and beyond.

The post A Bipartisan Group of U.S. Senators Has a Plan to Secure Future Elections appeared first on Futurism.

Cleaning up Coal May Buy Us Time as We Transition to Renewables

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 02:41 PM PST

Cleaning up coal

Researchers from The Ohio State University have devised a way to generate electricity from coal and biomass without releasing carbon dioxide in the process.

The team, lead by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, employed a process called “chemical looping” which burns fossil fuels while capturing carbon dioxide. It does so by replacing the oxygen needed for the combustion of fossil fuels with metal dioxide particles in high-pressure reactors.

Burning the carbon this way generates heat that can be used to power turbines and produce electricity, while the highly concentrated stream of carbon dioxide that results from the combustion is trapped and can be used for industrial purposes without being released into the atmosphere.

While chemical looping is a relatively young but well established technology, the team successfully tackled one of its main challenges: how to keep the metal dioxide particles from wearing out. Five years ago, the particle would last through about 1oo cycles, or eight days of continuous operation. Now, researchers have developed a new formulation that lasts approximately eight months.

"Renewables are the future," said Fan in a statement. "We need a bridge that allows us to create clean energy until we get there — something affordable we can use for the next 30 years or more, while wind and solar power become the prevailing technologies."

Missing Link

The development is being looked at as a possible stop-gap solution while renewable energy continues to develop. It is rapidly becoming cheaper to produce solar and wind energy but it will still be a while before they can fully compete with fossil fuels.

While coal will need to be quickly phased down and eventually dropped altogether if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, some analysts maintain that the so-called “clean coal” is part of the answer to the Paris Agreement. According to the International Energy Agency, since 2000 most new access to energy has come from fossil fuels, with coal leading the way at 45 percent.

Further innovation in renewable energy will continue to push down costs until relying on coal becomes financially disadvantageous. Better energy storage will also help facilitate this transition. The utility of powerful batteries, for example, is currently on display in Australia where it saved the grid from a massive power shortage due to a coal plant crash.

The world needs a complete transition to clean sources of energy as soon as possible. But until then, we must come to grips with the fact that coal is going to be around for a little longer, particularly in the developing world. And as much as “clean coal” sounds like an oxymoron, it might be all we have to cope with the situation.

The post Cleaning up Coal May Buy Us Time as We Transition to Renewables appeared first on Futurism.

Robots Have Replaced Humans in 25% of China’s Ammunition Factories

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 02:21 PM PST

Safer, Thanks to Robots

China is one country leading the charge when it comes to embracing robotics and artificial intelligence. Last year, the country saw the first robot dentist successfully operate on a patient, and there are plans to build an unmanned, AI-powered police station in a capital city. Both developments show signs of China’s progress to becoming a global leader in AI by 2030.

To be a leader in AI, however, also means using such technology in the workforce as a replacement for human workers. Recently, China has done so in using automation to increase its supply of bombs and artillery shells.

Speaking with the South China Morning Post (SCMP), Xu Zhigang, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Shenyang Institute of Automation, said that nearly 25 percent of China’s ammunition factories have had their human workers replaced with "smart machines." Interestingly enough, China didn’t turn to AI simply because it wants to lead AI adoption. It was instead because the factories were lacking in people who actually wanted to work in such dangerous environments.

"However high the salary offered, young people are simply not interested in working in an army ammunition plant nowadays," said Xu. No one can really fault them for being wary of the job, though. According to SCMP, citing “research papers published in Chinese academic journals,” a significant number of accidents have occurred in recent years, with some leading to injured workers or even death.

So great were safety concerns that the 20-30 factories constructed over the last 60 years are in remote locations, or areas with much lower populations.

"One spark could lead to a huge explosion and reduce the plant to a crater," said Xu. "The risk of fire was our biggest challenge. It hung over my head like a sword."

Improved Productivity and Efficiency

Even before the accidents were a factor, however, workers were exposed to harmful chemicals while assembling ammunition, requiring them to wear masks and gloves. Needless to say, it’s not the most inviting job, and one that’s likely better suited for automation.

Since introducing automation to the factories, the AI — equipped with “man-made ‘hands and eyes’ — have been almost 5 times more productive than human workers and can assemble various ammunition including artillery shells, guided bombs, and rockets with the kind of efficiency and perfection some human workers struggle with. They also don’t get tired, which is a plus for any industry looking to implement robotics. With productivity somewhat limited by the supply of raw materials, Xu said that the productivity boost would probably fall between 100 to 200 percent “at a minimum.” 

The Age of Automation: Welcome to the Next Great Revolution
Click to View Full Infographic

"The robots can free workers from risky, repetitive jobs in the bomb-making process," Professor Huang Dexian, from Tsinghua University's department of automation, told SCMP. "It will create new jobs such as control optimization, hardware maintenance and technical upgrades. It will give us a stronger, healthier, happier defense workforce."

Despite the AI’s improvements to safety, it’s fair to have concerns about their inclusion in the ammunition making process. Though Xu noted that China’s was not in a situation where it was “gearing up for a war and filling its armouries at breakneck speed," the country’s new production abilities could spur other countries to produce weaponry at a greater pace, or encourage them to speed up development on their own AI projects out of fear of being outmatched. Russia, for example, is reportedly building an AI-controlled missile, and has plans to add autonomy to its land and aerial vehicles. The U.S., meanwhile, wants to use AI to boost its intelligence gathering capabilities, and successfully tested an autonomous F-16 last April.

It’s true that automation can improve productivity and have positive impacts on society, but experts caution that we should also be wary about how far we take automation without proper plans. This is something Jon Wolfsthal, a non-resident fellow at Harvard University's Managing the Atom project, suggested society be cautious of, saying, “the possible advantages … are endless, but so too are the risks."

The post Robots Have Replaced Humans in 25% of China’s Ammunition Factories appeared first on Futurism.

AI Can Diagnose Heart Disease and Lung Cancer More Accurately Than Doctors

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 02:16 PM PST

Improved Diagnosis

Artificial intelligence (AI) has already proven useful in the healthcare industry, and now, two newly developed AI diagnostics systems could change how doctors diagnose heart disease and lung cancer.

Cardiologists are very good at their jobs, but they’re not infallible. To determine whether or not something’s wrong with a patient’s heart, a cardiologist will assess the timing of their heartbeat in scans. According to a report by BBC News, 80 percent of the time, their diagnosis of various heart problems is correct, but it’s the remaining 20 percent that shows the process has room for improvement.

To that end, a team of researchers from the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England, developed Ultromics, an AI diagnostics system that is more accurate than doctors at diagnosing heart disease.

Ultromics was trained using the heart scans of 1,000 patients treated by the company’s chief medical officer, Paul Leeson, as well as information about whether or not those patients went on to suffer heart problems. The system has been tested in multiple clinical trials, and Leeson told BBC News it has greatly outperformed human cardiologists. The specific results of the Ultromics trials are expected to be published in a journal later this year.

Meanwhile, startup Optellum is working to commercialize an AI system that diagnoses lung cancer by analyzing clumps of cells found in scans. That system has also been tested in various trials, and the company’s chief science and technology officer, Timor Kadir, told BBC News that the results suggest it could diagnose as many as 4,000 lung cancer patients per year earlier than doctors can.

Saving Lives and Money

Not only could these AI diagnostics systems save lives by providing earlier diagnosis of heart problems and lung cancer, they could also save money that could then be put toward anything from hiring more doctors, nurses, and hospital staff to new equipment.

All About IBM’s Watson [Infographic]
Click to View Full Infographic

Kadir told BBC News that Optellum could cut costs by £10bn ($13.5 billion) if both the United States and Europe decided to utilize it. Meanwhile, U.K. healthcare tsar Sir John Bell told BBC News that AI could have a huge positive impact on the National Health Service’s (NHS) bottom line.

“There is about £2.2bn ($2.97 billion) spent on pathology services in the NHS,” said Bell. “You may be able to reduce that by 50 percent. AI may be the thing that saves the NHS.”

Based on the abilities of today’s systems to not only best their human counterparts but also save institutions money, some are concerned that AI could replace doctors altogether. However, given the wide range of tasks a doctor must be capable of handling, it’s more likely that AIs will play a supporting role in the healthcare industry, at least in the near future, serving as a powerful tool that will help human workers do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.

The post AI Can Diagnose Heart Disease and Lung Cancer More Accurately Than Doctors appeared first on Futurism.

Scientists Unveil the First Portable Bionic Hand With a Sense of Touch

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 02:08 PM PST

The Prototype

A woman who lost her arm over 20 years ago has received the first portable bionic hand, which through a series of tiny electrodes and sophisticated sensors, has restored her sense of touch.

The technology unites the portable bionic hand with a computer that translates the information coming from the artificial fingers into a language the brain can understand, which it then sends back to the body through the electrodes.

This breakthrough is the result of many years of robotic research carried out by teams in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. Even though she’s central to this amazing innovation, Almerina Mascarello, who was chosen to test the prototype for six months, doesn’t feel like a superhuman. Instead, she told BBC that the prosthetic limb gave her back some of life’s simple pleasures, such as getting dressed or tying her shoes with no help. “All mundane things, really, but important. You feel complete,” she said.

Paolo Rossini, a neurologist at University Hospital Agostino Gemelli in Rome, sees the technology’s potential beyond the day-to-day. He told the BBC that “once you can control a robotic prosthesis with your brain you can think about creating one that allows more complex movements than a hand with five fingers.”

Bionics: The Astonishing Future of the Human Body
Click to View Full Infographic

Experiencing Touch

The technology underpinning the new bionic hand was developed in 2014, but at the time, the equipment necessary to support it was so big the prosthetic limb could not leave the lab.

For Dennis Aabo Sorensen, who lost his hand in 2004 in a firecracker explosion, regaining the experience of touch was “fantastic.” He told CattolicaNews that “being able to feel different textures, understanding whether objects were hard or soft and how I was holding them was just incredible.”

Researchers found that Dennis was able to distinguish between a hard, soft or medium object in 78 percent of cases. In 88 percent of cases, he could correctly describe the size and shape of specific objects such as a baseball, a glass, and a tangerine. Three years later, Almerina has been given the same ability just by carrying a small computer in a backpack.

Silvestro Micera, a neuroengineer at EPFL in Lausanne told BBC’s Fergus Walsh: “We are going more and more in the direction of science fiction movies like Luke Skywalker’s bionic hand in Star Wars – a fully controlled, fully natural, sensorized prosthesis, identical to the human hand.”

As exciting as the development is, Almerina had to give back the prototype after the six-month trial. Still, she hopes that once even more portable hands are developed and eventually commercialized, she’ll get to keep one for good.

The post Scientists Unveil the First Portable Bionic Hand With a Sense of Touch appeared first on Futurism.

Satellites Could Help Forecast the Next Cholera Outbreak

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 12:14 PM PST

Outbreak Satellite Monitoring

The outbreak of disease is the life-threatening start of a worst-case scenario, with the potential to become an epidemic or even a pandemic. For this reason, monitoring for potential outbreaks is a major public health concern. According to a successful new successful test in Yemen, public health technologies could be getting a major upgrade: disease outbreak satellite monitoring.

In May of 2017, scientists used satellite information to determine the potential for a cholera outbreak to occur in Yemen. In a surprising victory, they were able to predict an outbreak that occurred mere weeks later.

Every year, over 100,000 people die from cholera infections. Containing and properly responding to outbreaks is critical to preventing death from this waterborne bacterial disease. The use of satellites to predict outbreak in such an accurate way could become a more widespread and vital tool that could ultimately save thousands of lives.

Preparing for Disease

To make their predictions, the team used a few satellites to monitor temperature, water storage, precipitation, and land use. Combining this raw data with an algorithm specially designed by the team, trained on data from southern Asia and parts of Africa, they were able to predict which specific areas were most at risk for an outbreak within the next month.

This could be a life-saving tool going forward. Similar satellite-based efforts have seen success in predicting the outbreak of meningitis, which is more common in dry and dusty conditions, in Africa. NOAA and NASA are also using satellites to predict when both Sub-Saharan Africa and the Amazon Rainforest are at risk of malaria outbreaks. 

Weather Satellites
Click to View Full Infographic

Accurate forecasts could be particularly life-saving when it comes to cholera. While communities that live on the coast are typically prepared for occasional outbreaks of the disease, inland communities are often taken by surprise, as these outbreaks are more difficult to predict. Antarpreet Jutla, a hydrologist and civil engineer at West Virginia University who led the Yemen study, told Scientific American that inland communities usually don’t have vaccines or solutions to help remedy dehydration, which often kills victims before the disease runs its course.

"That's the value of disease forecasting,” Michael Wimberly, an ecologist at South Dakota State University who is remotely monitoring West Nile virus, said to Scientific American. “To be able to anticipate the right place, a little bit ahead of time, so we can get those tools out there.”

The post Satellites Could Help Forecast the Next Cholera Outbreak appeared first on Futurism.

10 Things Children Born in 2018 Will Probably Never Experience

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 11:33 AM PST

It’s All Coming Back to Me Now

2017 was a year filled with nostalgia thanks to a number of pop culture properties with ties to the past.

We got another official Alien film, and Blade Runner came back with new visuals to dazzle us. Meanwhile, “Stranger Things” hearkened back to the Spielbergian fantasy that wowed so many children of the ’80s, and “Twin Peaks” revived Agent Cooper so he could unravel yet another impenetrable mystery from the enigmatic mind of David Lynch.

As these films and TV shows remind us, a lot can change over the course of a few decades, and the experiences of one generation can be far different from those that follow closely behind thanks to advances in technology.

Things to Come: A Timeline of Future Technology [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

While the “Stranger Things” kids’ phone usage reminded 30-somethings of their own pre-mobile adolescences, children born in 2018 will probably never know the feeling of being tethered to a landline. A trip to the local megaplex to catch Blade Runner 2049 may have stirred up adults’ memories of seeing the original, but children born this year may never know what it’s like to watch a film on a smaller screen with a sound system that doesn’t rattle the brain.

Technology is currently advancing faster than ever before, so what else will kids born today only read about in books or, more likely, on computer screens? Here’s a list of the top 10 things that children born in 2018 will likely never experience.

Long, Boring Travel

Mobile devices and in-flight entertainment systems have made it pretty easy to stay distracted during the course of a long trip. However, aside from the Concorde, which was decommissioned in 2003, humanity hasn’t done nearly as much to increase the speed of air travel for international jet-setters. Beyond sparsely utilized bullet trains, even the speed of our ground transportation has remained fairly limited.

However, recent developments in transportation will likely speed up the travel process, meaning today’s kids may never know the pain of seemingly endless flights and road trips.

Supersonic planes are making a comeback and could ferry passengers “across the pond” in as few as 3.5 hours. While these aircraft could certainly make travel faster for a small subset of travelers, physical and cost limitations will likely prevent them from reaching the mainstream.

However, hyperloop technology could certainly prove to be an affordable way for travelers to subtract travel time from their itineraries.

Already, these super-fast systems have the ability to travel at speeds up to 387 kmh (240 mph). If proposed routes come to fruition, they could significantly cut the time of travel between major cities. For example, a trip from New York to Washington D.C. could take just 30 minutes as opposed to the current five hours.

Driver’s Licenses

Obtaining a driver’s license is currently a rite of passage for teenagers as they make that transition from the end of childhood to the beginning of adulthood. By the time today’s newborns are 16, self-driving cars may have already put an end to this unofficial ritual by completely removing the need for human operators of motor vehicles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an average of six teens between the ages of 16 and 19 died every day in 2015 from injuries sustained in motor vehicle collisions. Since a vast majority of accidents are caused by human error, removing the human from the equation could help to save the lives of people of all ages, so autonomous cars are a serious priority for many.

Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is confident that his electric and (currently) semi-autonomous car manufacturing company will produce fully autonomous vehicles within the next two years, and several ride-hailing services are already testing self-driving vehicles.

Biology’s Monopoly on Intelligence

Self-driving cars are just a single example of innovations made possible by the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI).

Today, we have AI systems that rival or even surpass human experts at specific tasks, such as playing chess or sorting recyclables. However, experts predict that conscious AI systems that rival human intelligence could just be decades away.

Advanced robots like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia are already blurring the line between humanity and machines. The next few decades will continue to push boundaries as we inch closer and closer to the singularity.

Children born in 2018 may never know what it’s like to join the workforce or go to college at a time when humans are the smartest entities on the planet.

Language Barriers

Another promising use for AI is communication, and eventually, technology could end the language barrier on Earth.

Communication tools such as Skype have already incorporated instantaneous translating capabilities that allow speakers of a few languages to freely converse in real-time, and Google has incorporated translating capabilities into their new headphones.

Other companies, such as Waverly Labs, are also working on perfecting the technology that will eventually rival the ability of the Babel fish, an alien species found in the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that can instantly translate alien languages for its host.

Children born in 2018 may find themselves growing up in a world in which anyone can talk to anyone, and the idea of a “foreign” language will seem, well, completely foreign.

Humanity as a Single-Planet Species

Technology that improves human communication could radically impact our world, but eventually, we may need to find a way to communicate with extraterrestrial species. Granted, the worlds we reach in the lifetimes of anyone born this year aren’t likely to contain intelligent life, but the first milestones on the path to such a future are likely to be reached in the next few decades.

When he’s not ushering in the future of autonomous transportation, Musk is pushing his space exploration company SpaceX to develop the technology to put humans on Mars. He thinks he’ll be able to get a crew to the Red Planet by 2024, so today’s children may have no memory of a time before humanity’s cosmic footprint extended beyond a single planet.

Quiet Spaces

Overpopulation is one of the factors that experts point to when they discuss the need for humanity to spread into the cosmos. Urban sprawl has been an issue on Earth for decades, bringing about continued deforestation and the elimination of farming space.

A less-discussed problem caused by the continuous spread of urbanization, however, is the increase in noise pollution.

Experts are concerned that noise is quickly becoming the next great public health crisis. Data collected by the United Nations estimates that by 2100, 84 percent of the world’s 10.8 billion citizens will live in cities, surrounded by a smorgasbord of sound.

This decline in the number of people who live in areas largely free from noise pollution means many of the babies born today will never know what it’s like to enjoy the sound of silence.

World Hunger

Urbanization may limit the space available for traditional farming, but thanks to innovations in agriculture, food shortages may soon become a relic of the past.

Urban farming is quickly developing into a major industry that is bringing fresh produce and even fish to many markets previously considered food deserts (areas cut off from access to fresh, unprocessed foods).

Vertical farming will bring greater access to underserved areas, making it more possible than ever to end hunger in urban areas. Meanwhile, companies are developing innovative ways to reduce food waste, such as by transforming food scraps into sweets or using coffee grounds to grow mushrooms.

If these innovations take hold, children born in 2018 could grow up in a world in which every person on Earth has access to all the food they need to live a healthy, happy life.

Paper Currency

The advent of credit cards may have been the first major blow to the utilization of cash, but it wasn’t the last. Today, paper currency must contend with PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and a slew of other payment options.

By the time children born in 2018 are old enough to earn a paycheck, they will have access to even more payment options, and cash could be completely phased out.

In the race to dethrone paper currency, cryptocurrencies are a frontrunner. Blockchain technology is adding much needed security to financial transactions, and while the crypto market is currently volatile, experts are still optimistic about its potential to permanently disrupt finance.

Digital Insecurity

Today, digital security is a major subject of concern. Hacking can occur on an international level, and with the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), even household appliances can be points of weakness in the defenses guarding sensitive personal information.

Experts are feverishly trying to keep security development on pace with the ubiquity of digitalization, and technological advances such as biometrics and RFID tech are helping. Unfortunately, these defenses still rely largely on typical encryption software, which is breakable.

The advent of the quantum computer will exponentially increase computing power, and better security systems will follow suit. By the time children born in 2018 reach adulthood, high-speed quantum encryption could ensure that the digital world they navigate is virtually unhackable.

Single-Screen Computing

While most of our digital devices currently make use of a typical flat screen, tomorrow’s user interfaces will be far more dynamic, and children born in 2018 may not remember a time when they were limited to a single screen and a keyboard.

The development of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have shifted the paradigm, and as these technologies continue to advance, we will increasingly see the incorporation of new capabilities into our computing experience.

Gesture recognition, language processing, and other technologies will allow for a more holistic interaction with our devices, and eventually, we may find ourselves interacting with systems akin to what we saw in Minority Report.

The post 10 Things Children Born in 2018 Will Probably Never Experience appeared first on Futurism.

Beyond Mining: Blockchain Boosts Solar Exchange Markets

Posted: 03 Jan 2018 10:42 AM PST

Clean Cryptocurrency

After the meteoric rise of Bitcoin in 2017, cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underpins their circulation have come into the spotlight. And as bitcoin prices skyrocketed, so did the electricity bills of the people mining the cryptocurrency. Last year alone, the energy spent on bitcoin mining was higher than the average electricity consumed by 159 countries.

However, some investors believe it doesn’t have to be like that. Mining remains an energy intensive operation, but it can be powered by clean electricity. The Spanish startup Pylon Network is launching its own “clean” cryptocurrency, Pylon coin, which will be used to exchange renewable energy.

Members of the energy exchange platform will receive coins for each unit of energy generated from solar panels, and will be able to sell the excess to other users. Gerard Bel, one of the founders of Pylon Network, told CoopNews that a system of servers called “green miners” is at the heart of the project.

"The green miners are like servers validating transactions," he said. "As in the case of bitcoin, the miners are big computers which solve the algorithm to secure the data."

"In our case we will implement a secure miner with low-energy consumption,” he added, “and the energy used to run this server will come from excess renewable energy. The energy that was not used is used to maintain the servers."

After a successful fundraising round, during which the startup distributed 3,250,000 pre-mined tokens to investors, the team launched an alpha version of its platform and is ready to go ahead with a demo this year. It will distribute smart meters across Spain, for people to measure their energy consumption in real time ahead of trading, and it’s already eyeing the U.K. and Germany as potential future markets.


The idea of exchanging clean energy through digital currency is not that dissimilar from the concept behind Climatecoin, which proposes to pay people who voluntarily offset carbon. In their pitch, the team from the blockchain-based platform CoinCircle explained that “usually people rely on government for public goods problems. But governments aren’t doing a very good job with the climate.”

Decentralizing how we decrease carbon emissions, is a way to empower people to take direct action instead of getting frustrated by a sluggish international response to climate change, the developers observed.

Similarly to Pylon coin, Climatecoin would initially run on Ethereum to ease upfront development costs, so the team will be able to focus on paying for carbon offsets. Despite an ambitious plan to scale up operations, Climatecoin is still little more than a proof of concept, and the pathway towards paying for global decarbonization through cryptocurrency is fraught with uncertainties.

For instance, the very concept of offsetting carbon raises some serious questions. Many of the projects aimed at pulling greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, such as planting forests or turning waste into biogas, are difficult to regulate.

It may be a long time before we get to staple a carbon credit to a digital coin and kickstart a global carbon market, but an increasing number of investors are already betting on the power of blockchain to solve public goods problems like climate change.

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.

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