Increasingly, digital technology is eroding the assumptions and conditions that have underpinned democracy for centuries. By now, fake news and polarization are familiar subjects to those interested in democracy's health. Just last week Facebook announced that it was doubling its'security and community' staff to 20,000. But in the future, we'll have to grapple with the much more significant idea of AI Democracy, asking which decisions could and should be taken by powerful digital systems, and whether such systems might better represent the people than the politicians we send to Congress. It's a prospect which holds possible glories but also terrible risks.
The most dramatic cybersecurity story of 2016 came to a quiet conclusion Friday in an Anchorage courtroom, as three young American computer savants pleaded guilty to masterminding an unprecedented botnet--powered by unsecured internet-of-things devices like security cameras and wireless routers--that unleashed sweeping attacks on key internet services around the globe last fall. What drove them wasn't anarchist politics or shadowy ties to a nation-state.
Google's AlphaGo beats Lee Sedol at the game of Go In 2016, major automakers like Tesla and Ford announced timelines for releasing fully-autonomous vehicles. DeepMind's AlphaGo, Google's AI system, beat the world champ Lee Sedol at one of the most complex board games in history. And other major advancements in AI have had big implications in healthcare, with some systems proving more effective in detecting cancer than human doctors. Want to learn what other cool things AI did in 2016? Here are TechRepublic's top picks.
Soldiers might end up using flexible robots inspired by invertebrates to go where humans can't. Ed Habtour works in the US Army Research Laboratory's Vehicle Technology Directorate, where he specializes in nonlinear dynamical systems. The US Army Research Laboratory and University of Minnesota have joined forces to develop extra pliable materials that can be 3D-printed on the battlefield and used to build robots that can move easily within confined spaces, the way biological organisms like a squid might maneuver through small holes in underwater rocks. Current military robots can't move freely in highly populated environments because they're made with rigid mechanical parts. However, that situation may change now that researchers have recently created a prototype of soft 3D-printed dielectric elastomer actuator -- an electroactive polymer that changes shape when hit with an electrical charge.
After years of gridlock, a bill that would help legalize Internet poker in California advanced out of a legislative committee on Wednesday after its author said there has been "serious progress toward consensus" between many competing interests in the gambling industry. The measure by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) would allow Internet poker websites to be operated by Native American tribes that operate casinos in partnerships with card clubs. Federal approval would also be required. It would give at least 60 million annually to the horse-racing industry to compensate it for being excluded from Internet poker and for losing revenue to tribal gambling casinos. The provision on subsidizing the horse-race industry removes one stumbling block that has prevented an agreement in the past.