‘Quantum Apocalypse’: How ultra-powerful computers could cripple governments and effectively break the internet



A new era of computing could bring about a ‘quantum apocalypse’

‘Our modern systems of finance, commerce, communication, transportation, manufacturing, energy, government, and healthcare will for all intents and purposes cease to function,’ cyber security expert warns

A new era of unfathomably fast computers is just a few years away, with quantum computers set to transform the way we communicate, cure disease, and even solve problems previously thought impossible.

But some computing experts fear functional quantum computers could also effectively break the internet as we know it.

Recent progress made by Google means their arrival could be sooner than expected. A leaked research paper suggests the company has achieved what is known as quantum supremacy, whereby a quantum computer performed a calculation that was far beyond the reach of today’s most powerful supercomputers.

First theorised by the physicist Richard Feynman in 1982, quantum computers combine the peculiar properties of quantum physics with computer science to achieve processing power that is exponentially more powerful than traditional computers.

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Here’s what quantum supremacy does—and doesn’t—mean for computing


Google has reportedly demonstrated for the first time that a quantum computer is capable of performing a task beyond the reach of even the most powerful conventional supercomputer in any practical time frame—a milestone known in the world of computing as “quantum supremacy.”

The ominous-sounding term, which was coined by theoretical physicist John Preskill in 2012, evokes an image of Darth Vader–like machines lording it over other computers. And the news has already produced some outlandish headlines, such as one on the Infowars website that screamed, “Google’s ‘Quantum Supremacy’ to Render All Cryptography and Military Secrets Breakable.” Political figures have been caught up in the hysteria, too: Andrew Yang, a presidential candidate, tweeted that “Google achieving quantum computing is a huge deal. It means, among many other things, that no code is uncrackable.”

Nonsense. It doesn’t mean that at all. Google’s achievement is significant, but quantum computers haven’t suddenly turned into computing colossi that will leave conventional machines trailing in the dust. Nor will they be laying waste to conventional cryptography in the near future—though in the longer term, they could pose a threat we need to start preparing for now.

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Google files patent for using A.I. to track a baby’s body and eye movements


In a patent application published this week, Google indicated it’s looking into how artificial intelligence can be used to watch for abnormal behavior in babies.

The system would consist of eye tracking and motion detection and could alert a parent if anything is out of the ordinary.

Google’s hefty investment in artificial intelligence might be making its way to the crib.

According to a patent application filed last year and published on Thursday, Google is researching technology that could track a baby’s eyes, movements and sounds using “intelligent” audio and video. If the behavior seems abnormal, the cloud-based system would notify parents on their device.

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Google’s chief decision scientist: Humans can fix AI’s shortcomings


 Cassie Kozyrkov, “chief decision scientist” at Google, speaking at AI Summit (London) 2019

Google’s chief decision scientist: Humans can fix AI’s shortcomings

Cassie Kozyrkov has served in various technical roles at Google over the past five years, but she now holds the somewhat curious position of “chief decision scientist.” Decision science sits at the intersection of data and behavioral science and involves statistics, machine learning, psychology, economics, and more.

In effect, this means Kozyrkov helps Google push a positive AI agenda — or, at the very least, convince people that AI isn’t as bad as the headlines claim.

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Google says the new Google Glass gives workers ‘superpowers’


A new version of the device–Glass Enterprise Edition 2–comes with a new look, a faster processor, and a brighter display.

In the workplace, nobody calls them Glassholes. Employees at hundreds of companies are wearing Google Glass, the heads-up display glasses that have found a new home in factories and healthcare facilities after getting off to a rough start in the consumer space.

Now Google has a new version of the device–Glass Enterprise Edition 2–with a new look, a faster processor, and a brighter display. The glasses actually come in two parts: Google makes the right side of the glasses–the side that holds all the technology–and Smith Optics makes the safety glasses that the Glass attaches to. This makes it possible for multiple employees to own their own pair of safety glasses and share one Glass.

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Restaurants are ignoring calls from Google’s Smart Assistant



 Hello, This Is Robot

Almost exactly a year ago, everyone was flipping out over Google’s newly announced Duplex feature, which basically pretends to be a human assistant in order to make reservations at restaurants or schedule trips to the hairdresser.

But the AI-powered assistant has struggled to win over the hearts of service workers. The Verge reports that restaurants are hanging up on Google’s auto-calling voice assistant — sometimes because they’re creeped out by how lifelike it sounds.

“I was spooked at how natural and human the machine sounds,” server Shawn Watford of Birmingham, Alabama told The Verge. “It was so weird [that] when it called, I immediately hung up.”

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Google just beat Amazon to launching one of the first drone delivery services


A Wing delivery drone

Google just beat Amazon to launching one of the first drone delivery services

  • The Alphabet startup Wing has secured approval for one of the world’s first drone delivery services.
  • The service is set to officially launch in Canberra, Australia, after securing approval from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority following a successful trial.
  • The service will aim to use drones to deliver items including coffee and ice cream to homes in the Canberra area within minutes of their being ordered through an app.
  • It means Alphabet has beaten Amazon to the punch after Jeff Bezos failed to deliver on his promise of launching a commercial drone delivery service by 2018.


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The automatic weapons of social media



It’s time for the platforms to admit their response is flawed, and work together to protect our civil discourse.

This is not an easy essay to write, because I have believed that technology companies are a force for good for more than 30 years. And for the past ten years, I’ve been an unabashed optimist when it comes to the impact of social platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and even Facebook. I want to believe they create more good than bad in our world. But recently I’ve lost that faith.

What’s changed my mind is the recalcitrant posture of these companies in the face of overwhelming evidence that their platforms are being intentionally manipulated to undermine our democracy. This is an existential crisis, both for civil society and for the health of the businesses being manipulated. But to date the response from the platforms is the equivalent of politicians’ “hopes and prayers” after a school shooting: Soothing murmurs, evasion of truly hard conversations, and a refusal to acknowledge the core problem: Their automated business models.

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Google’s DeepMind can predict wind patterns a day in advance

Wind Farm New York

DeepMind knows which way the wind blows

Wind power has become increasingly popular, but its success is limited by the fact that wind comes and goes as it pleases, making it hard for power grids to count on the renewable energy and less likely to fully embrace it. While we can’t control the wind, Google has an idea for the next best thing: using machine learning to predict it.

Google and DeepMind have started testing machine learning on Google’s own wind turbines, which are part of the company’s renewable energy projects. Beginning last year, they fed weather forecasts and existing turbine data into DeepMind’s machine learning platform, which churned out wind power predictions 36 hours ahead of actual power generation. Google could then make supply commitments to power grids a full day before delivery. That predictability makes it easier and more appealing for energy grids to depend on wind power, and as a result, it boosted the value of Google’s wind energy by roughly 20 percent.

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8 companies offering work-from-home jobs that don’t require a college degree


In an effort to secure the best talent on the market, more and more companies are expanding their applicant pool to include professionals without a traditional college degree.

Job search site Glassdoor compiled a list of who some of these companies are, with top employers like Apple, Google and IBM making the cut. Recently, FlexJobs examined that list to see which companies are also in their database with open positions that allow employees to work from anywhere. (FlexJobs notes that while some of the available work-from-home positions at these companies do require a college degree, there are many open positions that don’t.)

Take a look at the list below to see which flexible companies you should consider working for if you don’t have a four-year college education:

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Google Brain built a translator so AI can explain itself


A Google Brain scientist built a tool that can help artificial intelligence systems explain how they arrived at their conclusions — a notoriously tricky task for machine learning algorithms.

The tool, called Testing with Concept Activation Vectors or TCAV for short, can be plugged into machine learning algorithms to suss out how much they weighted different factors or types of data before churning out results, Quanta Magazine reports.

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The dawn of a new Big Tech regulatory era?


At the ShellyPalmer Innovation Series Breakfast at CES 2018, I had a Socratic discussion about the influence of the big technology platforms and other emerging technologies on our lives and the need for responsible innovation with David Sapin, US Risk & Regulatory Leader, PwC. We also talked about the growing “techlash” buzz for more industry regulation and, while we agreed that there was a need for formal approach around some aspects of the industry, we felt that the best approach at the time might be an industry self-regulatory approach to responsible innovation (see A Case for Responsible Innovation).

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