https://qz.com/1162023/an-optimists-guide-to-a-future-run-by-machines/

An optimist’s guide to a future run by machines

If you’re worried about the future and where technology might lead us, 2017 didn’t help. The warnings kept rolling in about potential job lossesfrom automation and machine learning. More than 375 million of uswill need to completely change occupations to avoid being replaced by robots, a recent report estimated. Meanwhile, artificial intelligence keeps getting smarter: The world got its first robot citizen, another robot learned to do backflips, and DeepMind’s AI has mastered chess.

It doesn’t need to be so frightening, says Tim O’Reilly, the founder and chief executive of O’Reilly Media. O’Reilly is known for spotting and promoting trends and innovations such as open-source software and web 2.0. In his new book WTF: What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Uspublished by Penguin Random House in October, the tech thinker and writer envisions a future in which people, particularly tech and financial executives, make smart, conscientious decisions to harness technology for good.

“WTF,” most commonly called upon as an expletive, but also an expression of astonishment, addresses the “profound sense of unease and even dismay” that many people experience when confronted with advanced technology, O’Reilly writes.

With the right choices, machines doesn’t have to put humans out of jobsRather, they could create work—and joy— for us. O’Reilly is keen to stress this ideal future, where AI brings us unimaginable delights and higher standards of livings, can only be achieved if we radically change how we view our economy and capitalist system.

“We are at a very dangerous moment in history,” O’Reilly warns. While some of his Silicon Valley neighbors believe we are on a steady march towards singularity, where machine and human brains melt into one force, O’Reilly has a reminder that nations can fail, civilizations can collapse, and technology can go backwards. Climate change, wealth inequality, intergenerational inequality, astronomical CEO pay, and the constant pursuit of corporate profits are all pitfalls that technology could exacerbate. It’s getting harder and harder to solve the problems we have created, he says.

For all its warnings, WTF is defiantly optimistic, and in some places surprisingly almost Marxist. It’s light on practical steps to achieve these idealistic goals, though they include more progressive taxes on financial investments and a “radical” shake up of the education system. However, there is a genuine plea for action, or at least thought, on building a better future. O’Reilly is inquisitive, sourcing ideas and thoughts from across history and disciplines, while the book is littered with quotes from literature, and by historical figures, entrepreneurs, economists, and friends in high places.

Quartz spoke to O’Reilly in London about technology’s role in building a better society. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Quartz: You’ve been in publishing for decades. Why did you decide this would be your first book for a general audience?

 “Let’s not just celebrate disruption, let’s start to identify the world that we want to build.” Tim O’Reilly: I could see the current tech backlash coming. There’s been a narrative that robots are going to take all the jobs and we’ll have a new Precariat [a social class suffering from an existence without predictability and job security]. I wanted to address the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who seem so tone deaf, policymakers, and of course the general public. I wanted to shape ideas and the story I felt I needed to tell was that the digital revolution is coming to the real world and it’s going to be messy but let’s not just celebrate the disruption, let’s start to identify the world that we want to build.

What does the disruption look like in that world?

I refute the idea that robots are going to take all the jobs. There’s plenty of work to be done, just look around. We have crumbling infrastructure, the looming specter of climate change, aging populations in the developed world who are going to need care, and government and healthcare systems that are stuck in the last century. There’s so much work to be done.

Early on in the book you warn that civilizations can fail and technology can go backwards. Is that a general warning or related to something specific you see in the world today?

 “Climate change will either crush us as a society or we will rise to and it will allow us to transform our society.” I studied classics, so how nations fail has always been in the backdrop of my mind. Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil talks about steady march towards the singularitybut on human timescales there’s big flat line periods, or downward spikes. It is possible for the world to go sideways, look at things like climate change and the anti-science, anti-progress, extractive, crony capitalism that is taking over governments around the world in the name of populism. We could end up in a very, very, dark time. There’s really two possibilities: eventually climate change is going to be little bit like the aftermath of World War II, something that will either crush us as a society or we will rise to and it will allow us to transform our society.

There’s a lot of ways things that could lead to a worse future, including climate change, politics, and inequality, but you still describe yourself as an optimist.

You have to believe that we can make things better. ‘Why It’s Up to Us’ is the most important part of the book’s title. I think it’s time for us to stop believing in the divine right of capital, that it’s only natural for companies to want to extract as much profit as possible from every unit of work to screw their customers if that will make them richer. Give me a break, that doesn’t work, it’s not sustainable.

“WTF,” most commonly called upon as an expletive, but also an expression of astonishment, addresses the “profound sense of unease and even dismay” that many people experience when confronted with advanced technology, O’Reilly writes.

With the right choices, machines doesn’t have to put humans out of jobsRather, they could create work—and joy— for us. O’Reilly is keen to stress this ideal future, where AI brings us unimaginable delights and higher standards of livings, can only be achieved if we radically change how we view our economy and capitalist system.

“We are at a very dangerous moment in history,” O’Reilly warns. While some of his Silicon Valley neighbors believe we are on a steady march towards singularity, where machine and human brains melt into one force, O’Reilly has a reminder that nations can fail, civilizations can collapse, and technology can go backwards. Climate change, wealth inequality, intergenerational inequality, astronomical CEO pay, and the constant pursuit of corporate profits are all pitfalls that technology could exacerbate. It’s getting harder and harder to solve the problems we have created, he says.

For all its warnings, WTF is defiantly optimistic, and in some places surprisingly almost Marxist. It’s light on practical steps to achieve these idealistic goals, though they include more progressive taxes on financial investments and a “radical” shake up of the education system. However, there is a genuine plea for action, or at least thought, on building a better future. O’Reilly is inquisitive, sourcing ideas and thoughts from across history and disciplines, while the book is littered with quotes from literature, and by historical figures, entrepreneurs, economists, and friends in high places.

Quartz spoke to O’Reilly in London about technology’s role in building a better society. The conversation has been edited and condensed.

Quartz: You’ve been in publishing for decades. Why did you decide this would be your first book for a general audience?

 “Let’s not just celebrate disruption, let’s start to identify the world that we want to build.” Tim O’Reilly: I could see the current tech backlash coming. There’s been a narrative that robots are going to take all the jobs and we’ll have a new Precariat [a social class suffering from an existence without predictability and job security]. I wanted to address the entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley who seem so tone deaf, policymakers, and of course the general public. I wanted to shape ideas and the story I felt I needed to tell was that the digital revolution is coming to the real world and it’s going to be messy but let’s not just celebrate the disruption, let’s start to identify the world that we want to build.

What does the disruption look like in that world?

I refute the idea that robots are going to take all the jobs. There’s plenty of work to be done, just look around. We have crumbling infrastructure, the looming specter of climate change, aging populations in the developed world who are going to need care, and government and healthcare systems that are stuck in the last century. There’s so much work to be done.

Early on in the book you warn that civilizations can fail and technology can go backwards. Is that a general warning or related to something specific you see in the world today?

 “Climate change will either crush us as a society or we will rise to and it will allow us to transform our society.” I studied classics, so how nations fail has always been in the backdrop of my mind. Futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil talks about steady march towards the singularitybut on human timescales there’s big flat line periods, or downward spikes. It is possible for the world to go sideways, look at things like climate change and the anti-science, anti-progress, extractive, crony capitalism that is taking over governments around the world in the name of populism. We could end up in a very, very, dark time. There’s really two possibilities: eventually climate change is going to be little bit like the aftermath of World War II, something that will either crush us as a society or we will rise to and it will allow us to transform our society.

There’s a lot of ways things that could lead to a worse future, including climate change, politics, and inequality, but you still describe yourself as an optimist.

You have to believe that we can make things better. ‘Why It’s Up to Us’ is the most important part of the book’s title. I think it’s time for us to stop believing in the divine right of capital, that it’s only natural for companies to want to extract as much profit as possible from every unit of work to screw their customers if that will make them richer. Give me a break, that doesn’t work, it’s not sustainable.

https://futurism.com/experts-elon-musk-roadster/

We Asked Experts Whether Elon Musk Can Really Send a Roadster to Space

The First Car in Space

On December 21, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk posted seven photos to Instagram of his red Tesla roadster being encased within a Falcon Heavy rocket, seemingly confirming rumors (that he had himself started via Twitter) that he plans to make the vehicle the payload for the rocket’s first test. The Falcon Heavy is slated to carry supplies into Mars orbit for future manned missions — but it has to get off the ground first.

After months of delays, the test mission is planned for sometime in January and will utilize the Roadster as a dummy payload.Musk has also been very open about the fact that the first Falcon Heavy flight could very likely fail, so this plan would allow the rocket to demonstrate that it can carry real supplies into orbit but without the risking the loss of expensive equipment packed into the first-ever launch.

“There’s a lot of risk associated with Falcon Heavy, a real good chance that that vehicle does not make it to orbit,” he said at a discussion during the International Space Station Research and Development conference. “I want to make sure to set expectations accordingly. I hope it makes it far enough beyond the pad so that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest.”

Whether the launch is successful or not, there are still lots of questions remaining about the specifics of the unusual payload: is it legal to launch a car in the Falcon Heavy? Is it safe? Does it pose the threat of creating space debris? And, since Musk has stated that he loves the idea of “a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future,” is a car really the best legacy we can leave for aliens to discover?

We asked experts about the legal, technical, and extraterrestrial issues that arise from Musk’s planned Roadster launch — and what might happen if that launch fails.

https://www.inc.com/minda-zetlin/googles-new-text-to-speech-ai-is-so-good-we-bet-you-cant-tell-it-from-a-real-human.html

Google’s New Text-to-Speech AI Is so Good We Bet You Can’t Tell It From a Real Human
See if you hear a difference between Tacotron 2 and human speech.

Can you tell the difference between AI-generated computer speech and a real, live human being? Maybe you’ve always thought you could. Maybe you’re fond of Alexa and Siri but believe you would never confuse either of them with an actual woman.

Things are about to get a lot more interesting. Google engineers have been hard at work creating a text-to-speech system called Tacotron 2. According to a paper they published this month, the system first creates a spectrogram of the text, a visual representation of how the speech should sound. That image is put through Google’s existing WaveNet algorithm, which uses the image to produce extremely natural sounding human speech.

Using this method, the researchers report, “Our model achieves a mean opinion score (MOS) of 4.53 comparable to a MOS of 4.58 for professionally recorded speech.” (A mean opinion score is a telecommunications term that measures how true-to-life something sounds.)

As Google’s audio samples demonstrate, Tacotron 2 can detect from context the difference between the noun “desert” and the verb “desert,” as well as the noun “present” and the verb “present,” and alter its pronunciation accordingly. It can place emphasis on capitalized words and apply the proper inflection when asking a question rather than making a statement.

And it can generate text that sounds so similar to human speech that it’s difficult or impossible to know the difference. If you want to see just how hard it is, go to Google’s audio samples page, and scroll down to the last set of samples, titled “Tacotron 2 or Human?” There you’ll find Tacotron 2 and a real person each saying sentences such as, “That girl did a video about Star Wars lipstick.”

So which samples are text-to-speech and which are a real human voice? Google’s engineers aren’t saying but they’ve left a very big clue. Each of the .wav file samples has a filename containing either the term “gen” or “gt.” Based on the paper, it’s highly probable that “gen” indicates speech generated by Tacotron 2, and “gt” is real human speech. (“GT” likely stands for “ground truth,” a machine learning term that basically means “the real deal.”)

Assuming this is correct, here are the answers to the test:

“That girl did a video about Star Wars lipstick.”

Sample 1: Real human

Sample 2: Tacotron 2

“She earned a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University.”

Sample 1: Tacotron 2

Sample 2: Real human

“George Washington was the first President of the United States.”

Sample 1: Tacotron 2

Sample 2: Real human

“I’m too busy for romance.”

Sample 1: Real human

Sample 2: Tacotron 2

How many did you get right? And could you really tell the difference, or did you just have to guess?

Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you’ll never miss a post.

http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-iphone-x-iphone-8-and-iphone-7-vs-iphone-6s-why-upgrading-isnt-worth-it-2017-12

I’ve had the iPhone 6S Plus for two years, and I’m so happy I didn’t upgrade to the iPhone 7, 8, or X

I bought the iPhone 6S Plus when it came out in September 2015 for $800+ (with taxes), and I couldn’t be happier that I saved $800+ in 2016 and 2017 by not upgrading to the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, or the iPhone X.

Don’t get me wrong — Apple’s newer iPhones are great and objectively better than the iPhone 6S Plus. They have faster processors and better cameras with dual lenses, which makes for beautiful photos. Those two features are arguably the main reasons someone should upgrade to a new smartphone.

iphone 6s plus backAntonio Villas-Boas

That said, the upgrades to the camera and processor simply weren’t enough to warrant the dent in my bank account that a new iPhone would have caused.

Here’s why:

View As: One Page Slides

 

The iPhone 6S still looks like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8.

The iPhone 6S still looks like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8.

The iPhone 7, left, and iPhone 6S.YouTube/SuperSaf TV

The iPhone 6S looks nearly identical to the iPhone 7, save for the redesigned and less visible antenna stripes. The plastic stripes might bother some, but I dress my iPhone in a case, so I can’t see the stripes anyway.

As for the iPhone 8, it’s also largely the same as the iPhone 6S’ design save for the glass back. The glass back on the iPhone 8 feels a little more premium than the metal back on the iPhone 6S and 7, but it’s not a good reason to upgrade, in my opinion.

The newer iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 colors are nice, but I still prefer the silver model.

The newer iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 colors are nice, but I still prefer the silver model.

Apple

While the iPhone’s 7’s jet black and matte black options are nice, they have no effect on my desire for the iPhone 7. If I were to buy a new iPhone 7, it would be the white/silver model, anyway.

The iPhone 8’s new “gold” color option – which looks more like rose gold – is also pretty nice, but I’d still get the silver model.

The only color that would tempt me to upgrade is an ’80s-electronics beige.

The only color that would tempt me to upgrade is an '80s-electronics beige.

Colorware

Check out Colorware’s Retro Edition iPhone 7 »

The iPhone X is absolutely gorgeous, but its price tag is a major deterrent.

The iPhone X is absolutely gorgeous, but its price tag is a major deterrent.

Hollis Johnson

The iPhone X is the best-looking smartphone you can buy at the moment with its incredibly narrow bezels, which allows the display to cover the majority of the phone’s front surface. I have to admit, its design alone has tempted me away from my iPhone 6S Plus. It’s even nicer when you hold it in person, as photos don’t do it justice.

Still, I just couldn’t lay my iPhone 6S Plus to rest if it meant spending a minimum of $1,000.

My iPhone 6S Plus is still speedy and reliable.

One of the main reasons I upgrade to the latest smartphone is to make sure I can run my apps quickly. In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than waiting for an app to open and run — especially Google Maps when you’re in a hurry.

The A9 chip turning the wheels inside my iPhone 6S Plus still feels speedy, and it rarely stutters while opening and running my apps.

The camera in the iPhone 6S Plus is still a great camera.

The camera in the iPhone 6S Plus is still a great camera.

A photo I took during a trip to Hawaii with my iPhone 6S Plus.Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

The iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X got significant camera upgrades over the iPhone 6s Plus’ camera in the form of a dual-lens camera. Apple’s newer iPhones can zoom without losing photo quality, and the Portrait Mode feature adds that fuzzy, out-of-focus texture from professional cameras, called “bokeh.”

The zoom is a meaningful upgrade, as my iPhone 6S Plus photos will look worse and worse as I try to zoom in with the camera app. But I’m not about to spend $800-plus on better zooming, and Portrait Mode is a mixed bag. Some like it; others weren’t so impressed.

For the extra $800 in my bank account, my iPhone 6S Plus takes photos just fine.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 have a slightly better screen, but it’s not a meaningful change.

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 have a slightly better screen, but it's not a meaningful change.

A comparison of the 6, 6S, and 7 shows the iPhone 7 has a marginally brighter and more colorful screen.YouTube/ApplePie

The iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 have slightly brighter displays that can show slightly better colors with their “wide color” features. Yet I haven’t craved a brighter display with better colors on my iPhone 6S Plus. And they all have Apple’s 3D Touch feature, which lets you press an item to bring up a menu of useful shortcuts.

The iPhone X is the only iPhone so far with a major display upgrade, but that price tag…

The iPhone X is the only iPhone so far with a major display upgrade, but that price tag...

Hollis Johnson

The iPhone X has a fantastic OLED display, which makes for incredible colors and beautiful contrast between light and dark parts of the screen.

Still, considering the excellent performance of my iPhone 6S Plus, I can manage without an OLED display until it’s truly time to upgrade.

The home touch buttons on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 are nice, but they don’t work any better than the iPhone 6S’s home button.

The home touch buttons on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 are nice, but they don't work any better than the iPhone 6S's home button.

Antonio Villas-Boas

I quite like the new home button on the iPhone 7. It’s a capacitive button that you don’t have to physically press, and it feels more modern compared with the iPhone 6S’s mechanical button.

But it’s not an upgrade worth spending more money on. The mechanical button on my iPhone 6S Plus works just fine, and it can read my fingerprint to unlock my phone or make mobile payments with Apple Pay just as quickly.

Face ID on the iPhone X doesn’t tempt me.

Face ID on the iPhone X doesn't tempt me.

Apple

Face ID looks cool because it’s a newer way to unlock your iPhone, but Touch ID has been working just fine.

My iPhone 6S Plus isn’t officially water-resistant, but that’s fine.

My iPhone 6S Plus isn't officially water-resistant, but that's fine.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

The iPhone 7’s water resistance is a big deal because the phone is less prone to damage if you drop it in water accidentally.

At the same time, I’ve never dropped my iPhone in water. (I’m literally knocking on wood right now. Look, here’s a photo of me knocking on wood, taken with my iPhone 6S Plus.)

knocking on wood

Also, the iPhone 6S is (unofficially) somewhat water-resistant, which should be enough for minor splashes and drops, even if it’s likely not as water-resistant as the iPhone 7, iPhone 8 or iPhone X.

The only time I’d upgrade would be if my iPhone 6S Plus succumbed to water damage.

My iPhone 6S Plus has a headphone jack.

My iPhone 6S Plus has a headphone jack.

Antonio Villas-Boas

I’m fully on board with Apple’s vision of a “wireless future,” as my tech arch nemesis is the cable. At the same time, I own a pair of wired headphones as a backup to my Bluetooth headphones, and there have been several instances when the headphone jack in my iPhone 6S Plus has come in handy.

Sure, I could still use wired headphones with the iPhone 7, iPhone 8, and iPhone X, but only if I have a dongle or if my wired headphones have a Lightning connector, neither of which is as convenient as the good old headphone jack.

I’m a little worried that I’ll have to adjust to using a dongle, which I’ll surely lose, when I buy my next iPhone — if it’s an iPhone.

So there you have it. I’ve saved a bunch of money by not buying Apple’s latest iPhone, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out.

I’ll keep using my iPhone 6S Plus until it can’t keep up with me. That could potentially take it beyond the iPhone 9, or whatever comes after the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. We’ll have to see what Apple comes up with in September 2018 when it’ll likely announce its new iPhones.

I have noticed that my iPhone 6S Plus’ battery life has been draining a lot faster ever since I upgrade to the latest version of iOS.

Ever since I upgraded to iOS 11 on my iPhone 6S Plus, the battery doesn’t last as long as it used to. I’m planning on replacing the battery for $80 at an Apple Store before buying a new iPhone for $800+.

http://www.newsweek.com/what-does-extreme-cold-do-your-body-761781

WHAT DOES COLD WEATHER DO TO THE HUMAN BODY? LOW TEMPERATURES CAN CAUSE SKIN BLISTERING AND SLURRED SPEECH

Bitter cold weather is sending much of the country into below-freezing temperatures, with wind chills dropping temperatures well below zero in the northern and northeastern parts of the U.S. Even into Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas, below freezing temperatures are in store into the weekend. But what does all that extreme cold do to your body?

Bitter cold weather is sending much of the country into below-freezing temperatures, with wind chills dropping temperatures well below zero in the northern and northeastern parts of the U.S. Even into Atlanta, Memphis and Dallas, below freezing temperatures are in store into the weekend. But what does all that extreme cold do to your body?

GettyImages-71039438New Zealand climber Mark Inglis, a double-amputee, shows the media his badly frost bitten hands upon arriving at Christchurch airport, after returning from Kathmandu, May 25, 2006 in Christchurch, New Zealand.GETTY

Uncovered skin and the extremities, like the hands, feet, nose, cheeks and ears, are most prone to frostbite. You may be experiencing frostbite if any pain or prickling you feel is progressing to numbness, according to the University of Maryland MedicalCenter. Your skin will begin to appear pale and hard with a waxy appearance. Other symptoms include: a burning sensation and swelling that could last for weeks, blisters and black scab-like crusts that develop weeks after exposure to extreme cold. Once your skin is re-warmed, your skin will appear flushed from blood rushing back to the frozen area.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE

In extreme cold, your body pushes more blood into the core to keep your heart and lungs warm in order to prevent hypothermia, which is when your body’s temperature decreases, not just your skin. But the lack of circulation and blood in your extremities is what causes them to freeze—quite literally. It’s possible for ice crystals to form around and within cells.

Hypothermia sets in once your body’s temperature drops below 96 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the weather service. This is much more severe and can be deadly. Extreme cold can make your body lose heat more quickly than it can produce heat, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can happen even at warmer temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, especially if you are wet from sweat, rain or being in cold water.

When hypothermia occurs, the most obvious sign is body temperature. In adults, other symptoms are shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss and slurred speech. If this happens, the CDC recommends getting medical attention immediately, and if that’s not possible, move somewhere warmer, remove wet clothing and warm up the center of the body first.

GettyImages-461087150A woman walks during a snowfall in New York’s borough of Queens on January 6, 2015. Extreme cold gripped Canada and northern parts of the US, prompting calls for residents to stay indoors amid increased risks of frostbite and hypothermia.GETTY

As the New Year arrives this weekend, the weather service recommends dressing in layers if you have to go outside during extreme cold. Cover any exposed skin to reduce chances of frostbite or hypothermia and seek shelter from the wind as much as possible.