Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai says there is ‘no question’ that AI needs to be regulated

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Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

‘The only question is how to approach it.’

Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai has called for new regulations in the world of AI, highlighting the dangers posed by technology like facial recognition and deepfakes, while stressing that any legislation must balance “potential harms … with social opportunities.”

“[T]here is no question in my mind that artificial intelligence needs to be regulated. It is too important not to,” writes Pichai in an editorial for The Financial Times. “The only question is how to approach it.”

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A survey of 20,000 creatives suggests brainstorming is a giant waste of time

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Perhaps more than any other category of professionals, creative types are expected to thrive in brainstorms. In the public’s imagination, their offices are filled with fidget toys and Post-it notes in an array of colors, all meant to absorb some of the energy of a group of fast-thinking, well-dressed hipsters deep in ideation mode.

But a new report based on a survey of 20,000 creatives from 197 countries suggests that, in fact, a majority of these professionals—including writers, musicians, photographers, and podcasters—find that brainstorming is largely unhelpful for solving a creative challenge.

The survey, commissioned by the Dutch file-sharing company WeTransfer, attests to the perils of this form of groupthink. “In the creative world we hear an awful lot about collaboration, but it seems that while working together is essential to bring an idea to life, it’s not that good for shaping ideas in the first place,” notes Rob Alderson, WeTransfer’s recently departed editor in chief.

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What will the end of oil dependence mean for geopolitics?

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Solar power is one form of renewable energy that is replacing fossil fuels

If you want to understand the revolution taking place in renewable energy, come to a power station called Gemasolar in southern Spain.

Here, in the dusty plains of Andalusia, they have worked out how to generate solar power 24 hours a day.

Yes, you can read that sentence again. At Gemasolar they create electricity even when the Sun is not shining.

They have rigged up more than 2,500 huge mirrors on hydraulic mounts that follow the Sun’s passage through the sky.

The mirrors – each about the size of half a tennis court – reflect the Sun’s rays to one central point, the top of a 140m (459ft) tower, where molten salt is heated to almost 600C. This liquid salt is carried down the tower to where it heats the steam that powers a turbine.

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Science explains why we should all work shorter hours in winter

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People tend to feel gloomier when the nights draw in and cold weather descends. But altering our working hours to fit the seasons could help lift our mood

For many of us, winter, with its chillier days and lingering nights, ushers in with it a general sense of malaise. It’s increasingly difficult to peel ourselves out of bed in the half-light of morning, and, hunched over our desks at work, we can feel our productivity draining away with the remnants of the afternoon sun.

For the small subsection of the population who experience full-blown seasonal affective disorder (SAD), it’s even worse – winter blues mutate into something far more debilitating. Sufferers experience hypersomnia, low mood and a pervasive sense of futility during the bleaker months. SAD notwithstanding, depression is more widely reported during winter, suicide rates increase, and productivity in the workplace drops during January and February.

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Fewer students are going to college. Here’s why that matters

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This fall, there were nearly 250,000 fewer students enrolled in college than a year ago, according to new numbers out Monday from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, which tracks college enrollment by student.

“That’s a lot of students that we’re losing,” says Doug Shapiro, who leads the research center at the Clearinghouse.

And this year isn’t the first time this has happened. Over the past eight years, college enrollment nationwide has fallen about 11%. Every sector — public state schools, community colleges, for-profits and private liberal arts schools — has felt the decline, though it has been especially painful for small private colleges, where, in some cases, institutions have been forced to close.

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Would you want immortal life as a cyborg?

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Transhumanism can mean uploading one’s mind into cyberspace. But some transhumanists hope to slowly morph into “immortal cyborgs” with endlessly replaceable parts.

Five years ago, we were told, we were all turning into cyborgs:

Did you recently welcome a child into the world? Congratulations! An upstanding responsible parent such as yourself is surely doing all you can to prepare your little one for all the pitfalls life has in store. However, thanks to technology, children born in 2014 may face a far different set of issues than you ever had to. And we’re not talking about simply learning to master a new generation of digital doohickeys, we’re talking about living in a world in which the very definition of “human” becomes blurred.

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Scientists pinpoint the age you’re most likely to find meaning in life

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What is the meaning of life? But if you’re still searching, take solace in the fact that scientists may have finally found the age when purpose becomes clear. Knowing the answer could be a boon to your physical and mental health — humans tend to thrive with a sense of purpose, their results suggest.

Interviews with 1,042 people aged 21 to more than 100 years old reveal that people tend to feel like their lives have meaning at around age 60. That’s the age at which the search for meaning is often at it’s lowest, and the “presence” of meaning is at it’s highest, according to a new paper published this week in the journal Clinical Psychiatry.

If you’re a twenty-something ruminating about your life’s purpose, that may seem like a long time to wait. But take heart: If this study tells us anything, it’s that the ennui-fueled search for meaning in your early life is normal, and, even after 60, it doesn’t actually ever end. Instead, people may readjust how they derive purpose as they age.

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Who wants to tie the knot with a bot? The answer may surprise you!

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Fancy a robot as a spouse? Artificial intelligence, that marvel of software, is expected to revolutionize affairs of the human heart. But would algorithmic love still be love?

Marriages are made in heaven, we were once told. But heaven might be displaced by technology within a few decades. Credit for this disruption would go to artificial intelligence (AI), according to those who have gazed into crystal balls (of silicon, naturally), and spied weddings between humans and robots in the not-so-distant future. Among them is Maciej Musiał, a philosopher from Poland’s Adam Mickiewicz University, who has been studying bonds that we develop with machines. Virtual reality, in his view, is no longer an oxymoron, and he presents the chit-chat we do with online assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, as evidence of not just a great blurring, but also of our capacity for emotional ties with e-individuals. Of course, Spike Jonze’s 2013 film, Her, has already been there and done that—its hero falls for an AI “her”. What’s new are corporeal versions, or “sexbots”, that promise physical intimacy as well. Many believe we’re only a few upgrades away from the whole spousal package—pillow talk, toilet-seat tiffs, and all. Designer babies, engineered with DNA samples, are already being talked about. Will humanoid infants be next? What’s going on? Is human evolution about to get warped by this brave new world?

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Smart glasses, smart designer babies and the future of work

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John B. Goodenough, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last month, struggled to learn to read. “Back then,” he says, “You were just a backwards student.”

His experience is still all too common, yet he and many like him demonstrate clearly that dyslexia is not a definitive barrier to career achievement. We must ask ourselves if our entry level recruitment and education systems should always depend on literacy.

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The 5 college majors American students most regret picking

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Obtaining an undergraduate degree is almost always worth it — bachelor’s degree holders earn 84% more than those with just a high school diploma.

However, not all majors are the same, ZipRecruiter found.

As tuition costs soar, more students and their families are asking themselves if college is still worth it.

Some experts say the value of a bachelor’s degree is fading. Starting salaries for new college graduates have grown less than 1% over the past two years, remaining at around $50,000.

Worse yet: A decade after leaving school, more than 1 in 5 graduates are working in a job that doesn’t even require a degree.

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What are the ethical consequences of immortality technology?

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Detail from The Fountain of Youth (1546) by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Courtesy Wikipedia

Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it’s now the subject of serious investment – both intellectual and financial – by philosophers, scientists and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be ‘cryopreserved’ in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative ‘solutions’ being mooted?

Of course, we don’t currently have the means of achieving human immortality, nor is it clear that we ever will. But two hypothetical options have so far attracted the most interest and attention: rejuvenation technology, and mind uploading.

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