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“Digisexuals” Are Falling In Love — And Lusting For — Robots

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 10:06 AM PST

A growing group of people identify themselves as "digisexuals" — a provocative term for people who are attracted to robots and artificial intelligences.

Digisexuals

Remember the French woman who claimed she was engaged to a 3D printed robot she had designed, or the Chinese engineer who performed a marriage ceremony with a robot wife?

In a fascinating new story, the New York Times reports that a growing group of people identify themselves as “digisexuals” — a provocative term for people who are attracted to robots and artificial intelligences, rather than humans with flesh bodies and biological mind.

Dirty Computer

Academics have started to grapple with the concept of digisexuality, the Times reports. In 2017, researchers at the University of Manitoba and the University of Wisconsin-Stout published a paper that explored that rise of the concept — and the technologies that enable it, from automated sex toys to robotic sex dolls that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“What they've been into is sex tech, toys they can control with their tech devices, that attach to their penis or their vulva,” said Markie Twist, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout and co-author of the paper, in an interview with the Times. “They haven't had contact with humans, and really don't have any interest in sex with people. This is what they want to be doing, and if they could afford a sex robot, they would.”

Fringe Group

The Times report — which comes alongside more disturbing coverage from the paper about people brutally attacking robots — includes a whip-smart analysis of the trend that contextualizes the notion of digisexuality on a spectrum of behaviors that are already considered normal.

“Whether the notion is absurd, inevitable or offensive, it raises more than a few questions,” Times reporter Alex Williams wrote of the phenomenon. “For starters, in a world where sex toys that respond and give feedback and artificial-intelligence-powered sex robots are inching toward the mainstream, are digisexuals a fringe group, destined to remain buried in the sexual underground? Or, in a culture permeated with online pornography, sexting and Tinder swiping, isn't everyone a closet digisexual?”

READ MORE: Do You Take This Robot … [The New York Times]

More on sex robots: We Have No Idea What Having Sex With Robots Might Do to Us

The post “Digisexuals” Are Falling In Love — And Lusting For — Robots appeared first on Futurism.

More Bad News: Tesla Is About to Owe $920 Million in Debt

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 09:20 AM PST

A nearly billion-dollar debt is about to come due for Tesla. That's more bad news about a trying month for the futuristic automaker.

Debtor’s Prison

Elon Musk-led electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla has had a chaotic month. End-of-the-year figures showed that it had scaled up production dramatically in 2018, but weeks later the company announced that it was laying off seven percent of its workforce.

Now, CNBC speculates that some of those financial jitters could stem from a nearly billion-dollar debt that’s about to come due to for the automaker — a tough start to 2019 that could impact not just Tesla’s long-term chances but the outlook of the entire EV industry.

Financial Wrangling

The debt stems from a financial instrument called a “convertible senior note,” according to CNBC: basically, if the company’s stock is trading for more than $359.87 on March 1, the debt will convert into Tesla shares — but if not, it’ll owe the $920 million debt in cash.

Why’s that bad news for Tesla? Because the automaker’s stock hasn’t traded above that value in weeks, the network reports.

Adaptions

Tesla has clearly been making efforts to shore up its bottom line. In addition to he layoffs, it dropped its longstanding customer referral program this past week.

If it’s forced to cough up the debt, according to CNBC, Tesla will wipe out approximately a third of its cash reserves — a bleak state of affairs for a futuristic venture that’s struggled with certain business norms as it attempts to upend an established industry.

READ MORE: Tesla Cuts 7% of Its Workforce, and Elon Musk Sees a 'Very Difficult' Road Ahead [CNBC]

More on Tesla: Elon Musk: Tesla Is Dropping Its Customer Referral Program

The post More Bad News: Tesla Is About to Owe $920 Million in Debt appeared first on Futurism.

Ducati Is Working on a Futuristic Electric Motorcycle

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 08:24 AM PST

Iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati says that it's not only working on an electric motorcycle, but that the bike is close to production.

Electric Motorcycle

Iconic Italian motorcycle manufacturer Ducati says that it’s not only working on an electric motorcycle, but that the bike is close to production.

That makes Ducati the latest motorcycle brand to jump on board the EV movement — Harley-Davidson plans to start selling its first electric bike this August, and an upstart manufacturer called Zero Motorcycles impressed reviewers with its electric debut.

“The Future is Electric”

Ducati has dabbled with two-wheeled electric transportation in the past. It’s produced several electric bicycles in collaboration with partners, and in 2016 it released a stylish concept video for a motorcycle called the Ducati Zero, developed with a Milan polytechnic school.

“The future is electric,” Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali said during an event in Spain, according to Electrek‘s translation, and that the company is “not far from starting series production.”

READ MORE: Ducati CEO confirms 'The future is electric', says electric Ducati is coming [Electrek]

More on the bike: BMW's Self-Driving Motorcycle Could Help Keep Bikers Safe

The post Ducati Is Working on a Futuristic Electric Motorcycle appeared first on Futurism.

WHO: Anti-Vaxxers Now One of the Greatest Threats to World Health

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 08:03 AM PST

The World Health Organization released its annual roundup of the gravest threats to global health — and one of them is anti-vaxxers.

Anti-Vaxxers

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its annual roundup of the gravest threats to global health — and one of them is the growing resistance to vaccination, a threat the group listed alongside Ebola and air pollution.

“Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” the group wrote. “Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”

Disease Please

Fighting the ideas propagated by anti-vaxxers, which often hold — against nearly all available evidence — that vaccines are ineffective or harmful, is a complex problem. Many subscribe to conspiratorial worldviews, meaning that messages from traditional authority figures like doctors and public health researchers can be unsuccessful.

For now, the WHO urges nuance.

“The reasons why people choose not to vaccinate are complex; a vaccines advisory group to WHO identified complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence are key reasons underlying hesitancy,” the group wrote, diplomatically. “Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines.”

READ MORE: Ten threats to global health in 2019 [World Health Organization]

More on anti-vaxxers: Australia Will Now Prosecute Nurses Spreading Anti-Vaccination Messages

The post WHO: Anti-Vaxxers Now One of the Greatest Threats to World Health appeared first on Futurism.

India Is Launching the Largest Basic Income Experiment in History

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 07:35 AM PST

India is about to launch a basic income experiment that will provide cash payments to each of its 610,000 citizens — reportedly the largest in history.

Largest Basic Income

The small Indian state of Sikkim is about to launch a basic income experiment that will provide cash payments to each of its 610,000 citizens — a pilot that the Washington Post says is the largest basic income experiment in history.

“In developed countries, the main purpose is to restructure or economize the existing welfare schemes, like unemployment benefits,” University of California at Berkeley economist Pranab Bardhan told the Post of the experiment. “In low- or mid-income countries, like India, the rationale will be to address the minimum economic insecurity of a larger section of the population, not just the poorest, without touching the existing anti-poverty measures.”

Out Front

Tech luminaries including Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have endorsed the idea of basic income, the Post points out, as an idea to transform the economy as more labor becomes automated.

But actual experiments have been rare and limited in scope — making it ironic that the largest to date is scheduled to kick off in India, a far less affluent country than the United States.

Progressive History

It’s important to note that details about Sikkim’s upcoming experiment remain hazy. It’s not clear how much each resident will be paid, and the launch date of 2022 is still years away. But Indian politicians are hopeful.

“It's a matter of political will ultimately,” said P.D. Rai, a Sikkim’s member of parliament. “With the rise of global inequality, we want to ensure that we bridge the gap.”

READ MORE: Tiny Indian state proposes world's biggest experiment with guaranteed income [The Washington Post]

More on basic income: Study Finds People Given Basic Income Are Likely to Keep Working

The post India Is Launching the Largest Basic Income Experiment in History appeared first on Futurism.

People Are Brutally Assaulting Robots. Experts Want to Know Why

Posted: 20 Jan 2019 06:59 AM PST

People across the world are brutally assaulting robots — a trend that could indicate a deep compulsion to lash out against automatons.

Killing Robots

Remember when assailants beat and dismembered a hitchhiking robot? Or destroyed a sex robot at an electronics show? Or when a man pulled a gun on a Waymo self-driving car? Or beat an educational robot with a baseball bat?

Those incidents aren’t outliers, experts say. Again and again, people across the world are attacking and injuring robots — a trend, according to the New York Times, that could indicate a deep compulsion to lash out against automatons, and which could have wide-ranging implications for the future of interactions between robots and humans.

Rage Against the Machine

One hypothesis is that the violence is due to economic anxiety: people are worried that robots could take their jobs.

That’s one plausible solution, according to the Times, but another could be the ancient and brutal human tendency to exclude tribal outsiders.

“You have an agent, the robot, that is in a different category than humans,” Italian cognitive psychologist Agnieszka Wykowska told the paper. "So you probably very easily engage in this psychological mechanism of social ostracism because it's an out-group member. That's something to discuss: the dehumanization of robots even though they're not humans.”

Frankenstein Syndrome

Wykowska blames anti-robot violence on what she calls “Frankenstein syndrome” — the fear of unknown things that are somewhat like us, but different in uncanny ways. Wykowska told the Times about an incident, for instance, in which a colleague introduced robots to a kindergarten class.

The children “have this tendency of being very brutal to the robot, they would kick the robot, they would be cruel to it, they would be really not nice," she said.

But there was a bright side, she told the paper. When the teachers told the children that the robots had names — humanizing them, perhaps, in a small way — the violence stopped.

READ MORE: Why Do We Hurt Robots? [The New York Times]

More on anti-robot violence: People Are Reportedly Attacking Driverless Cars in California

The post People Are Brutally Assaulting Robots. Experts Want to Know Why appeared first on Futurism.

The U.S. Wants to Put Ballistic Missile Defense Systems in Space

Posted: 19 Jan 2019 10:32 AM PST

The U.S. military has released this year's Missile Defense Review that includes plans for space-based missile sensors, and interceptors.

Missiles in Space

The U.S. recently released a report that outlines how it will develop new technology to defend itself from missile attacks, and expand its existing missile defend shield. Chief among the ideas outlined by the report are ways the U.S. could defend itself from missiles — but from space.

The so-called Missile Defense Review was officially released in its unclassified form by the Pentagon earlier this week. The accompanying event was attended by President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and a number of high-ranking U.S. military officials.

A particularly high-brow idea highlighted in the report: space-based sensors, and anti-missile weapons that could track missiles mid-flight, and intercept (read: destroy) them from orbit.

Space-Based Sensors

We’ve known about these plans for a while now. The development of space-based anti-missile systems was mentioned in this year’s defense spending bill that was agreed upon by U.S. lawmakers back in July.

The plan is to come up with a preliminary working prototype of such a sensor by the early 2020s.

“We see space as an area that's very important as far as advanced, next-level capabilities that will help us stay ahead of the threat,” said Pentagon technology head Mike Griffin at the event, as quoted by Defense News. “A space-based layer of sensors is something we are looking at to help give early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles when they are launched.”

Space Lasers

Space-based interceptors however — a system of high velocity projectiles or even lasers that can take out ballistic missiles while in orbit — will have to go through a six-month testing phase before the military decides to invest in the technology, according to Defense News.

Other ideas outlined in the Missile Defense Review include using the F-35 fighter jet to shoot down missiles while airborne, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could do the same — but with lasers.

READ MORE: Here’s All You Need To Know About The New Missile Defense Review That Was Just Released [The Drive]

More on missile defense systems: Watch a Missile Smash a Dummy Nuclear Warhead Out of the Sky

The post The U.S. Wants to Put Ballistic Missile Defense Systems in Space appeared first on Futurism.