Cyborg apocalypse in 2045

Human beings are innately religious, so when they reject traditional religions they replace them with new ones.  Often, they project their religious sensibilities onto other areas of life, such as politics or psychology or medicine, turning them into means of salvation or apocalypse.

Today, many people fear, love, and trust technology.  I have heard of the “singularity”–that time when computers will allegedly attain consciousness–proclaimed as a means of finding eternal life, when we can all download out minds into our computers and live forever.  Now a book is warning about a singularity apocalypse, when computers start to consider human beings–who will by then be cyborgs–to be the equivalent of dangerous insects. [Read more...]

Never-ending war

Drones that can zap our enemies from above like Zeus throwing down thunderbolts would seem like a great anti-terrorism technology.   But we probably won’t like them as much when other countries–and terrorists–use them to assassinate people on our soil.

But whatever you think of drone warfare, I was struck by a news story reporting on a bipartisan commission studying the issue in which one consequence is said to be a state of “never-ending war.” [Read more...]

Supremes rule for cell phone privacy

The Obama administration and the state of California argued that law enforcement officials should be able to go through the information on a person’s cell phone, which they argued was no different from asking someone to turn out his pockets.  But the Supreme Court, striking a blow for privacy in 21st century technology, ruled–unanimously, no less–that cell phone data (which includes not just call records but with your calendar and appointments a record of nearly all of your activities) is private and cannot be accessed by authorities without a warrant. [Read more...]

The phone as a device to avoid talking to people

Alexandra Petri discusses the decline in people checking their voicemails, the demise of landlines, and how texting is replacing live conversations.  Read the whole essay.  A sample:

A phone is not for making calls.

Phones are actually devices that you use to avoid talking to people, and anyone who thinks otherwise is surely older than 30. [Read more...]

A supercomputer didn’t really pass the Turing Test

The media reported that a supercomputer passed the Turing Test, a measure of artificial intelligence in which a computer can pass as a human being.  But it turns out that this is just one of the many examples tracked on this blog (as some of you commenters have pointed out) of incompetent reporting on science and technology.  Here is a link to the big story.  Then, after the jump, a link to a tech site debunking the claim, along with some specific points that the article got wrong. [Read more...]

Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more...]


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