Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category
Manufacturing is one of many areas in which my ignorance is vast: Video of spring-making machine in action
Do you have to build the machines yourself? I cannot imagine there’s a big enough market that you could buy such a machine from a catalog. Watch it at work:
Whether Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him has long been debated, with various other contenders supported by various factions. (Mark Twain opined that the Iliad was not written by Homer, but by another man of the same name.)
Now we have big data weighing in. Travis Andrews reports in the Washington Post:
For many, many years, scholars have wondered whether William Shakespeare’s plays were actually written by Shakespeare, or at least if they were written solely by the man we now colloquially refer to as the Bard.
Although the arguments about his authorship have raged for two centuries, his plays have been printed and reprinted and reprinted again, bearing his name. Now, for the first time and with a bit of help from computers and big data, the Oxford University Press will add Christopher Marlowe as a co-author in all three “Henry VI” plays (Parts 1, 2 and 3).
Marlowe was a contemporary and, some say, rival of Shakespeare’s. As the Poetry Foundation put it, “The achievement of Christopher Marlowe, poet and dramatist, was enormous — surpassed only by that of his exact contemporary, Shakespeare.”
Rivals though they may have been, scholars have long thought Shakespeare might have collaborated with Marlowe, among other contemporary writers.
After all, as the New York Times noted, playwriting then was structured much the way scriptwriting is today — an author received an advance to write an outline, then the theater that owned the outline would hire different writers to fill in different parts, depending on what they wrote well (the way comedian Patton Oswalt, for example, might be called in to add jokes to a finished script).
“Shakespeare, like other geniuses, recognized the value of other people,” Gary Taylor, a professor at Florida State University and one of the editors who led the research, told the Associated Press. “What is Shakespeare famous for? Writing dialogue — interactions between two people. You would expect in his life there would be dialogue with other people.”
To find out if collaboration occurred, 23 international scholars performed text analysis by scanning through Marlowe’s (and other contemporary writers’) works, creating computerized data sets of the words and phrases he would repeat, along with how he did so — all of the idiosyncrasies that comprise one’s writing. Once they had a solid sample set of unique patterns, the Times noted, they cross-referenced it with Shakespeare’s plays.
The result? . . .
See also this report in the Guardian: “Christopher Marlowe credited as one of Shakespeare’s co-writers.”
A grim new world awaits us. Matthew Rosenberg and John Markoff report in the NY Times:
The small drone, with its six whirring rotors, swept past the replica of a Middle Eastern village and closed in on a mosque-like structure, its camera scanning for targets.
No humans were remotely piloting the drone, which was nothing more than a machine that could be bought on Amazon. But armed with advanced artificial intelligence software, it had been transformed into a robot that could find and identify the half-dozen men carrying replicas of AK-47s around the village and pretending to be insurgents.
As the drone descended slightly, a purple rectangle flickered on a video feed that was being relayed to engineers monitoring the test. The drone had locked onto a man obscured in the shadows, a display of hunting prowess that offered an eerie preview of how the Pentagon plans to transform warfare.
The Defense Department is designing robotic fighter jets that would fly into combat alongside manned aircraft. It has tested missiles that can decide what to attack, and it has built ships that can hunt for enemy submarines, stalking those it finds over thousands of miles, without any help from humans.
“If Stanley Kubrick directed ‘Dr. Strangelove’ again, it would be about the issue of autonomous weapons,” said Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management.
Defense officials say the weapons are needed for the United States to maintain its military edge over China, Russia and other rivals, who are also pouring money into similar research (as are allies, such as Britain and Israel). The Pentagon’s latest budget outlined $18 billion to be spent over three years on technologies that included those needed for autonomous weapons.
“China and Russia are developing battle networks that are as good as our own. They can see as far as ours can see; they can throw guided munitions as far as we can,” said Robert O. Work, the deputy defense secretary, who has been a driving force for the development of autonomous weapons. “What we want to do is just make sure that we would be able to win as quickly as we have been able to do in the past.”
Just as the Industrial Revolution spurred the creation of powerful and destructive machines like airplanes and tanks that diminished the role of individual soldiers, artificial intelligence technology is enabling the Pentagon to reorder the places of man and machine on the battlefield the same way it is transforming ordinary life with computers that can see, hear and speak and cars that can drive themselves.
The new weapons would offer speed and precision unmatched by any human while reducing the number — and cost — of soldiers and pilots exposed to potential death and dismemberment in battle. The challenge for the Pentagon is to ensure that the weapons are reliable partners for humans and not potential threats to them.
At the core of the strategic shift envisioned by the Pentagon is a concept that officials call centaur warfighting. Named for the half-man and half-horse in Greek mythology, the strategy emphasizes human control and autonomous weapons as ways to augment and magnify the creativity and problem-solving skills of soldiers, pilots and sailors, not replace them.
The weapons, in the Pentagon’s vision, would be less like the Terminator and more like the comic-book superhero Iron Man, Mr. Work said in an interview.
“There’s so much fear out there about killer robots and Skynet,” the murderous artificial intelligence network of the “Terminator” movies, Mr. Work said. “That’s not the way we envision it at all.”
When it comes to decisions over life and death, “there will always be a man in the loop,” he said.
Beyond the Pentagon, though, there is deep skepticism that such limits will remain in place once the technologies to create thinking weapons are perfected. Hundreds of scientists and experts warned in an open letter last year that developing even the dumbest of intelligent weapons risked setting off a global arms race. The result, the letter warned, would be fully independent robots that can kill, and are cheap and as readily available to rogue states and violent extremists as they are to great powers.
“Autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow,” the letter said.
The Terminator Conundrum
The debate within the military is no longer about whether to build autonomous weapons but how much independence to give them. . .
Neurel-net learning of best scams, best phishing tactics, tailored to your social media profile…
John Markoff takes a look at the possibilities in the NY Times:
Imagine receiving a phone call from your aging mother seeking your help because she has forgotten her banking password.
Except it’s not your mother. The voice on the other end of the phone call just sounds deceptively like her.
It is actually a computer-synthesized voice, a tour-de-force of artificial intelligence technology that has been crafted to make it possible for someone to masquerade via the telephone.
Such a situation is still science fiction — but just barely. It is also the future of crime.
The software components necessary to make such masking technology widely accessible are advancing rapidly. Recently, for example, DeepMind, the Alphabet subsidiary known for a program that has bested some of the top human players in the board game Go, announced that it had designed a program that “mimics any human voice and which sounds more natural than the best existing text-to-speech systems, reducing the gap with human performance by over 50 percent.”
The irony, of course, is that this year the computer security industry, with $75 billion in annual revenue, has started to talk about how machine learning and pattern recognition techniques will improve the woeful state of computer security.
But there is a downside.
“The thing people don’t get is that cybercrime is becoming automated and it is scaling exponentially,” said Marc Goodman, a law enforcement agency adviser and the author of “Future Crimes.” He added, “This is not about Matthew Broderick hacking from his basement,” a reference to the 1983 movie “War Games.”
The alarm about malevolent use of advanced artificial intelligence technologies was sounded earlier this year by James R. Clapper, the director of National Intelligence. In his annual review of security, Mr. Clapper underscored the point that while A.I. systems would make some things easier, they would also expand the vulnerabilities of the online world.
The growing sophistication of computer criminals can be seen in . . .
Joseph Cox writes at Motherboard:
It’s not just your friends following you on Facebook or Twitter. The cops are, too.
Law enforcement agencies around the world have used social media monitoring software to keep tabs on populations en masse, sweeping up their posts and tweets, giving police a bird’s-eye view of what, say, Twitter users are broadcasting in a specific area, or about a particular topic. Tweeting from an Olympic stadium? Sharing a post with a hashtag supporting Black Lives Matter? Police may be watching that, in real time.
On the face of it, you might not have a problem with cops reading public social media posts or tweets: individuals presumably took the decision to put the information out there themselves. But law enforcement’s monitoring of social media is not that simple.
“Social media monitoring is so much more than it first appears. Programs to monitor social media are rarely about manual review of public information,” Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager at activist group Access Now, told Motherboard in a Twitter message.
Instead, these programs are often about learning new, and qualitatively different information from an individual’s or communities’ postings. That might be the ‘mood’ of a population, which can then be used to predict any upcoming instability, or if a group may start to protest, for example.
“Police have a huge challenge in monitoring social networks for the prevention and detection of crime due to the sheer volume of material across networks such as Twitter and YouTube,” a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police Service in London told Motherboard in an email. The MPS has made heavy use of social media monitoring tools.
Or, software can map a person’s movements over time, based on the geolocation data attached to their posts, and other pieces of metadata that users may not realise they are beaming out, as it is not always easily accessible to someone just looking at Twitter normally.
“What law enforcement increasingly can do with social media looks very different from what the public can do,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law told Motherboard in a phone call. According to The Daily Dot, Geofeedia, a particularly popular social media monitoring tool, also makes use of fake profiles in an attempt to gain access to even more information on behalf of law enforcement clients. This activity appears to be geared toward targeted individuals.
Indeed, these services may rely on special access to social media site data, which gives them more information than an ordinary user. . .
“Are we being followed?” can now be answered: Yes, we are. All of us. And with tools that can zoom in and get an amazingly complete profile of any individual.
UPDATE: Using the “Look Inside” feature to read the first page of Nexus, a science-fiction novel.