Aug 6, 2017


Facebook Shut Down AI After It Invented Its Own Language

Researches at Facebook shut down an artificial intelligence (AI) program after it created its own language, Digital Journal reports.

The system developed code words to make communication more efficient and researchers took it offline when they realized it was no longer using English.

The incident, after it was revealed in early July, puts in perspective Elon Musk’s warnings about AI.

“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive,” Musk said at the meet of US National Governors Association. “Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late.”

When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Musk’s warnings are “pretty irresponsible,” Musk responded that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

Here is how transhumanism’s faithful are following it blindly into a future for the wealthy elite

“Transhumanism” is the idea that humans should transcend their current natural state and limitations through the use of technology – that we should embrace self-directed human evolution. If the history of technological progress can be seen as humankind’s attempt to tame nature to better serve its needs, transhumanism is the logical continuation: the revision of humankind’s nature to better serve its fantasies.

As David Pearce, a leading proponent of transhumanism and co-founder of Humanity+, says:

If we want to live in paradise, we will have to engineer it ourselves. If we want eternal life, then we’ll need to rewrite our bug-ridden genetic code and become god-like … only hi-tech solutions can ever eradicate suffering from the world. Compassion alone is not enough.

But there is a darker side to the naive faith that Pearce and other proponents have in transhumanism – one that is decidedly dystopian.

There is unlikely to be a clear moment when we emerge as transhuman. Rather technologies will become more intrusive and integrate seamlessly with the human body. Technology has long been thought of as an extension of the self. Many aspects of our social world, not least our financial systems, are already largely machine-based. There is much to learn from these evolving human/machine hybrid systems.

The dangerous delusions of Richard Dawkins

The recent cancellation of a book event with Richard Dawkins by the radio station KPFA has caused reverberations around the world. KPFA cited offensive remarks Dawkins has made about Islam. Dawkins and his followers have claimed these were taken out of context and that he’s been equally critical of Christianity. What this controversy misses, however, is the far greater destructive force of other ideas Dawkins has promulgated over decades, which have helped form the foundation of a mainstream worldview that endorses gaping wealth inequalities and encourages the wanton destruction of the natural world.

. . .

Since Dawkins’s 1976 publication of The Selfish Gene, millions of people have come to understand evolution as the result of genes competing against other in a remorseless drive to replicate themselves. Ruthless competition is seen as the force that separates evolution’s winners from losers. Even altruism is interpreted as a sophisticated form of selfish behavior used by an organism to propagate its own genes more effectively. “Let us try to teach generosity and altruism,” Dawkins suggests, “because we are born selfish.”

It’s a harsh story, and one that has become a bedrock of modern economics, which argues that human beings are motivated by their own self-interest, and their collective self-serving actions result in the best outcome for society. This has led to a commonly accepted pseudo-scientific rationalization for laissez-faire capitalism, using the misappropriated term “survival of the fittest” to justify ruthless exploitation of the poor by wealthy corporations.

It is, however, a story that has been shown in recent decades to be erroneous at each level of its narration. Dawkins’s idea of the “selfish gene,” while still holding currency in the popular imagination, has been extensively discredited as a simplistic interpretation of evolution. In its place, biologists have developed a far more sophisticated view of evolution as a series of complex, interlocking systems, where the gene, organism, community, species, and environment all interact with each other intricately over different time frames.

A New Explanation for One of the Strangest Occurrences in Nature—Ball Lightning

Every so often, given the proper conditions, a small and roughly spherical piece of the atmosphere around us will briefly catch fire. As they are best viewed late into the night and have no obvious natural explanation, it’s perhaps no wonder they’ve inspired a rich mythology. Names for balls of fire include ignis fatuus, will-o’-the-wisp, ghost lights, and ball lightning. They’ve been said to hover above graves, dance along the banks of rivers, signal the imminent arrival of an earthquake, and stalk the aisles of airplanes. Even today, we don’t have a crystal-clear understanding of how they form and do what they do. Which doesn’t mean scientists have, well, dropped the ball. Chinese scientist H.-C. Wu recently offered a compelling new explanation in Scientific Reports.

Some fireballs appear to be the products of living organisms. The decay of organic matter, for example, in marshes and other wetlands (or even a mass grave in a Polish forest) leads to the release of methane and phosphorus-containing gases such as phosphine, which can spontaneously catch fire after encountering oxygen in the atmosphere, producing a flickering light suspended midair. Some, on the other hand, are electrical in origin, sparking within the ground during an earthquake as stressed rocks release a stream of electrons to the surface where, interacting with air, they produce flashes of light. Still others form in the atmosphere, usually during thunderstorms, and go by the name of “ball lightning.”

Ball lightning comes in most colors of the rainbow and ranges in size—from a typical toy marble, to those extra large exercise balls some people sit on instead of office chairs. It can form inside closed spaces and move down chimneys and horizontally through closed windows. In addition to producing light, ball lightning can give off sparks and is associated with hissing or buzzing noises and a strong, irritating odor. It typically lasts for only seconds, glowing with the intensity of a bright household light bulb. The unpredictable and variable nature of ball lightning has made it difficult to develop a conclusive theory explaining how it works, but accounts of its strangeness are numerous and have been published for centuries.

NASA has a job opening for someone to defend Earth from aliens — and it pays a six-figure salary

The position was created after the US ratified the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, specifically to support Article IX of the document:

"States Parties to the Treaty shall pursue studies of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter and, where necessary, shall adopt appropriate measures for this purpose."

Part of the international agreement is that any space mission must have a less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world.

"It's a moderate level," Conley previously told Business Insider. "It's not extremely careful, but it's not extremely lax."

Hubble Detects Exoplanet with Glowing Water Atmosphere

Scientists have discovered the strongest evidence to date for a stratosphere on a planet outside our solar system, or exoplanet. A stratosphere is a layer of atmosphere in which temperature increases with higher altitudes.

"This result is exciting because it shows that a common trait of most of the atmospheres in our solar system -- a warm stratosphere -- also can be found in exoplanet atmospheres," said Mark Marley, study co-author based at NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "We can now compare processes in exoplanet atmospheres with the same processes that happen under different sets of conditions in our own solar system."

Reporting in the journal Nature, scientists used data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study WASP-121b, a type of exoplanet called a "hot Jupiter." Its mass is 1.2 times that of Jupiter, and its radius is about 1.9 times Jupiter's -- making it puffier. But while Jupiter revolves around our sun once every 12 years, WASP-121b has an orbital period of just 1.3 days. This exoplanet is so close to its star that if it got any closer, the star's gravity would start ripping it apart. It also means that the top of the planet's atmosphere is heated to a blazing 4,600 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 Celsius), hot enough to boil some metals. The WASP-121 system is estimated to be about 900 light years from Earth – a long way, but close by galactic standards.

Previous research found possible signs of a stratosphere on the exoplanet WASP-33b as well as some other hot Jupiters. The new study presents the best evidence yet because of the signature of hot water molecules that researchers observed for the first time.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority opens first large-scale solar farm

An entity of the Navajo Nation has taken its first step to generating electricity by starting a solar farm on 200 acres five miles north of here.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is the primary electricity service provider for the tribe and started operating the 27.3-megawatt Kayenta Solar Project in June.

It is the first large-scale solar energy facility on the reservation. The electricity is sold to the Salt River Project for distribution.

. . .

"With the Navajo Generating Station shutting down, that leaves a hole in power generation in this region. And we know that part of that hole ultimately will be filled with renewable energy, whether it's solar or wind," Steiger said in an interview during a visit to the site on July 6.

Bees Are Bouncing Back From Colony Collapse Disorder

The number of U.S. honeybees, a critical component to agricultural production, rose in 2017 from a year earlier, and deaths of the insects attributed to a mysterious malady that’s affected hives in North America and Europe declined, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture honeybee health survey released Tuesday.

The number of commercial U.S. honeybee colonies rose 3 percent to 2.89 million as of April 1, 2017 compared with a year earlier, the Agriculture Department reported. The number of hives lost to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon of disappearing bees that has raised concerns among farmers and scientists for a decade, was 84,430 in this year’s first quarter, down 27 percent from a year earlier. Year-over-year losses declined by the same percentage in April through June, the most recent data in the survey.

Still, more than two-fifths of beekeepers said mites were harming their hives, and with pesticides and other factors still stressing bees, the overall increase is largely the result of constant replenishment of losses, the study showed.

. . .

Environmental groups have expressed alarm over the 90 percent decline during the past two decades in the population of pollinators, from wild bees to Monarch butterflies. Some point to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids as a possible cause, a link rejected by Bayer AG and other manufacturers.

World’s Largest Air Purifier Transforms Chinese Smog into Actual Diamonds

This shimmering park tower isn’t just a glamorous piece of architecture: it is the largest air purifier in the world, and it is turning China’s smog into diamonds.

The tower is a 23-foot tall metal structure that is capable of filtering 75% of harmful PM2.5 and PM10 particles from the surrounding air, thus producing 30,000 cubic meters of clean air per hour. This creates a bubble of air around the tower, offering smog-free solace to urban dwellers.

According to the tower’s creator Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, the Chinese smog that is accumulated by the air filter is the equivalent of smoking 17 cigarettes per day.

Plus, by using ion technology, the tower uses very little electricity – about as much as an electric kettle. The electricity that it does use, however, comes from wind power.

A Sylvia Plath Retrospective Finally Puts Her Visual Art on Display

Sylvia Plath is regarded as one of the greatest poets and novelists of the 20th century. But as a teen, she didn't even want to be a writer. Plath enrolled at Smith College with the intention of studying studio art but switched to English under the conviction of teachers who recognized her talent for words.

And although during her lifetime she was never recognized for her visual work, Plath never stopped making art. Now, with an exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Plath's visual art is getting a retrospective of its own.

One Life: Sylvia Plath explores the writer's visual art through letters, drawings, and self portraits spanning her entire life. Paper dolls Plath made in childhood are displayed alongside collages of Eisenhower, pin-up girls, and fighter jets. One particularly impressive work is a Cubist-inspired self-portrait Plath made her senior year of high school.

"Sylvia Plath's fascination with images and imaging was a strong part of her identity," Dorothy Moss, curator of painting and sculpture at the Portrait Gallery, says in a statement. "The exhibition allows us to see what she described as her 'visual imagination' in all its complexity."

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