Forget Killer Robots: Autonomous Weapons Are Already Online

BY Jeremy Hsu International discussions about lethal autonomous weapons have often ignored the fact that AI weaponry is already coursing through cyberspace. ARLIER THIS YEAR, concerns over the development of autonomous military systems — essentially AI-driven machinery capable of making battlefield decisions, including the selection of targets — were once again the center of attention at a United Nations meeting in Geneva. “Where is the line going to be drawn between human and machine decision-making?” Paul Scharre, director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C., told Time magazine. “Are we going to be … Continue reading Forget Killer Robots: Autonomous Weapons Are Already Online

After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

Credit: Petr Kratochvil. PublicDomainPictures.net.  by PHILIP PERRY Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in? Some scientists have studied near death experiences (NDEs) to try to gain insights into how death overcomes the brain. What they’ve found is remarkable, a surge of electricity enters the brain moments before brain death. One 2013 study out of the University of … Continue reading After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

From Immigrant to Inventor: The Great Serbian-American Scientist Michael Pupin on the Value of a Penniless Immigrant Boy Full of Promise

Michael Pupin, 1916. “An immigrant can see things which escape the attention of the native.” BY MARIA POPOVA “Society has discovered discrimination as the great social weapon by which one may kill men without any bloodshed,”Hannah Arendt wrote in her timeless, increasingly timely meditation on the immigrant experience and the meaning of “refugee.” But discrimination is also a self-inflicted wound by which the society perpetrating it bleeds internally — not only because it lacerates the moral fabric of the culture, but because it is a means by which a society cheats itself of the vital polyphony of voices necessary for symphonic polity. That is … Continue reading From Immigrant to Inventor: The Great Serbian-American Scientist Michael Pupin on the Value of a Penniless Immigrant Boy Full of Promise

Could Quantum Computing Be the End of Free Will?

YUSUF AHMAD / REUTERS On the fear that too much processing power will make us cease to be human by RACHEL GUTMAN Faster, more powerful computing has the potential to revolutionize fields from drug delivery to freight transportation. But some are also worried that the computers of the future could also upend what it means to be human. Quantum computing capitalizes on the quantum-physics principle that a particle may be in two states at once, as long as it does not leave a record of either state. Unlike traditional computers, which are made of bits restrained to values of zero or … Continue reading Could Quantum Computing Be the End of Free Will?

Artificial Consciousness: How To Give A Robot A Soul

Victor Tangermann, The Birth of Alexa, Photoshop, 2018  StockSnap/Victor Tangermann by Dan Robitzski  The Terminator was written to frighten us; WALL-E was written to make us cry. Robots can’t do the terrifying or heartbreaking things we see in movies, but still the question lingers: What if they could? Granted, the technology we have today isn’t anywhere near sophisticated enough to do any of that. But people keep asking. At the heart of those discussions lies the question: can machines become conscious? Could they even develop — or be programmed to contain — a soul? At the very least, could an algorithm contain something resembling a soul? The … Continue reading Artificial Consciousness: How To Give A Robot A Soul

Composing Your Thoughts

RUBIN’S VASE: This image, developed by psychologist Edgar Rubin, is a famous example of visual ambiguity. Music that upsets expectations is what makes your gray matter sing. BY JONATHAN BERGER ILLUSTRATION BY GÉRARD DUBOIS 1. Unshaven and one bit short To death and taxes, Benjamin Franklin’s binary list of life’s certainties, add the expectation that this six-note sequence: Will continue with this: Although we ponder ways to avoid or evade Franklin’s list of unavoidable events, we generally accept this more benign certainty as immutable. To demonstrate, consider this: The penultimate note of the tune generates such strong and specific anticipation that you … Continue reading Composing Your Thoughts

Your Brain on Depression

image edited by Fernando Kaskais Video by Emma Allen Depression is a multifaceted and insidious disorder, nearly as complex as the brain itself. As research continues to suggest, the onset of depression can be attributed to an interplay of the many elements that make us human—namely, our genetics, the structure and chemistry of our brains, and our lived experience. Second only, perhaps, to the confounding mechanics of anesthesia, depression is the ultimate mind-body problem; understanding how it works could unlock the mysteries of human consciousness. Emma Allen, a visual artist, and Dr. Daisy Thompson-Lake, a clinical neuroscientist, are fascinated by the physical processes … Continue reading Your Brain on Depression