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This Chinese Lab Is Aiming for Big AI Breakthroughs

WIRED

In a low-rise building overlooking a busy intersection in Beijing, Ji Rong Wen, a middle-aged scientist with thin-rimmed glasses and a mop of black hair, excitedly describes a project that could advance one of the hottest areas of artificial intelligence. Wen leads a team at the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI), a government-sponsored research lab that's testing a powerful new language algorithm--something similar to GPT-3, a program revealed in June by researchers at OpenAI that digests large amounts of text and can generate remarkably coherent, free-flowing language. "This is a big project," Wen says with a big grin. "It takes a lot of computing infrastructure and money." Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing recruited to work part-time at BAAI, hopes to create an algorithm that is even cleverer than GPT-3. He plans to combine machine learning with databases of facts, and to feed the algorithm images and video as well as text, in hope of creating a richer understanding of the physical world--that the words cat and fur don't just often appear in the same sentence, but are associated with one another visually.


'Hitman 3' is the grandest stage for your own stories, even as it tries to end its own

Washington Post - Technology News

I've already talked at length about how the brilliant second mission alone, based on "Knives out" or Agatha Christie's "Poirot" murder mysteries, already justifies this game's existence. Chongqing is another highlight, a deliberate throwback to the old Hong Kong levels of the original PC release. It's a rain-drenched district that once again illustrates the kind of grand interconnectivity and neon sheen that "Cyberpunk" tried to achieve, and "Hitman" does effortlessly. Rain slithers off his leather-coated back as he waits outside his mark's building, assessing the place. In the meantime, he can open an umbrella and make small talk with a woman waiting for her girlfriend, just one of the series' many small but important storytelling flourishes to make each level feel more alive than you've seen in any action adventure.


Robot Battle Still Favors Japan and Europe---For Now

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Covid-19 has accelerated automation in factories, especially in manufacturing powerhouse China. Foreign companies have long dominated the market for industrial robots and automation tools there--but there are signs that dominance is fraying around the edges. As the factory for the world, China is unsurprisingly far and away the largest market for industrial robots. Before the pandemic, however, the U.S.-China trade war was slowing growth. New installations of industrial robots amounted to 140,500 in 2019, a 9% decline from the previous year, but still almost three times the number for second-place Japan, according to the International Federation of Robotics.


Quantum internet signals beamed between drones a kilometre apart

New Scientist

Entangled photons have been sent between two drones hovering a kilometre apart, demonstrating technology that could form the building blocks of a quantum internet. When a pair of photons are quantum entangled, you can instantly deduce the state of one by measuring the other, regardless of the distance separating them. This phenomenon, which Albert Einstein dismissively called "spooky action at a distance", is the basis of quantum encryption – using entangled particles to ensure communications are secret. Quantum networks are far more secure than the existing internet because any attempt to eavesdrop changes the state of the photons, alerting the recipient to foul play. Entangled photons have been transported more than 1000 kilometres in tests between a satellite and ground stations before, but now Zhenda Xie at Nanjing University in China and his colleagues have shown that links can be made over shorter distances with relatively inexpensive hardware.


Transmission heterogeneities, kinetics, and controllability of SARS-CoV-2

Science

A minority of people infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmit most infections. How does this happen? Sun et al. reconstructed transmission in Hunan, China, up to April 2020. Such detailed data can be used to separate out the relative contribution of transmission control measures aimed at isolating individuals relative to population-level distancing measures. The authors found that most of the secondary transmissions could be traced back to a minority of infected individuals, and well over half of transmission occurred in the presymptomatic phase. Furthermore, the duration of exposure to an infected person combined with closeness and number of household contacts constituted the greatest risks for transmission, particularly when lockdown conditions prevailed. These findings could help in the design of infection control policies that have the potential to minimize both virus transmission and economic strain. Science , this issue p. [eabe2424][1] ### INTRODUCTION The role of transmission heterogeneities in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) dynamics remains unclear, particularly those heterogeneities driven by demography, behavior, and interventions. To understand individual heterogeneities and their effect on disease control, we analyze detailed contact-tracing data from Hunan, a province in China adjacent to Hubei and one of the first regions to experience a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in January to March 2020. The Hunan outbreak was swiftly brought under control by March 2020 through a combination of nonpharmaceutical interventions including population-level mobility restriction (i.e., lockdown), traveler screening, case isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine. In parallel, highly detailed epidemiological information on SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals and their close contacts was collected by the Hunan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. ### RATIONALE Contact-tracing data provide information to reconstruct transmission chains and understand outbreak dynamics. These data can in turn generate valuable intelligence on key epidemiological parameters and risk factors for transmission, which paves the way for more-targeted and cost-effective interventions. ### RESULTS On the basis of epidemiological information and exposure diaries on 1178 SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals and their 15,648 close contacts, we developed a series of statistical and computational models to stochastically reconstruct transmission chains, identify risk factors for transmission, and infer the infectiousness profile over the course of a typical infection. We observe overdispersion in the distribution of secondary infections, with 80% of secondary cases traced back to 15% of infections, which indicates substantial transmission heterogeneities. We find that SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions, with the highest per-contact risk estimated in the household. Lockdown interventions increase transmission risk in families and households, whereas the timely isolation of infected individuals reduces risk across all types of contacts. There is a gradient of increasing susceptibility with age but no significant difference in infectivity by age or clinical severity. Early isolation of SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals drastically alters transmission kinetics, leading to shorter generation and serial intervals and a higher fraction of presymptomatic transmission. After adjusting for the censoring effects of isolation, we find that the infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom onset, with 53% of transmission occurring in the presymptomatic phase in an uncontrolled setting. We then use these results to evaluate the effectiveness of individual-based strategies (case isolation and contact quarantine) both alone and in combination with population-level contact reductions. We find that a plausible parameter space for SARS-CoV-2 control is restricted to scenarios where interventions are synergistically combined, owing to the particular transmission kinetics of this virus. ### CONCLUSION There is considerable heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 transmission owing to individual differences in biology and contacts that is modulated by the effects of interventions. We estimate that about half of secondary transmission events occur in the presymptomatic phase of a primary case in uncontrolled outbreaks. Achieving epidemic control requires that isolation and contact-tracing interventions are layered with population-level approaches, such as mask wearing, increased teleworking, and restrictions on large gatherings. Our study also demonstrates the value of conducting high-quality contact-tracing investigations to advance our understanding of the transmission dynamics of an emerging pathogen. ![Figure][2] Transmission chains, contact patterns, and transmission kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 in Hunan, China, based on case and contact-tracing data from Hunan, China. (Top left) One realization of the reconstructed transmission chains, with a histogram representing overdispersion in the distribution of secondary infections. (Top right) Contact matrices of community, social, extended family, and household contacts reveal distinct age profiles. (Bottom) Earlier isolation of primary infections shortens the generation and serial intervals while increasing the relative contribution of transmission in the presymptomatic phase. A long-standing question in infectious disease dynamics concerns the role of transmission heterogeneities, which are driven by demography, behavior, and interventions. On the basis of detailed patient and contact-tracing data in Hunan, China, we find that 80% of secondary infections traced back to 15% of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) primary infections, which indicates substantial transmission heterogeneities. Transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions and is modulated by demographic and clinical factors. The lockdown period increases transmission risk in the family and households, whereas isolation and quarantine reduce risks across all types of contacts. The reconstructed infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom presentation. Modeling indicates that SARS-CoV-2 control requires the synergistic efforts of case isolation, contact quarantine, and population-level interventions because of the specific transmission kinetics of this virus. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe2424 [2]: pending:yes


These five AI developments will shape 2021 and beyond

MIT Technology Review

The year 2020 was profoundly challenging for citizens, companies, and governments around the world. As covid-19 spread, requiring far-reaching health and safety restrictions, artificial intelligence (AI) applications played a crucial role in saving lives and fostering economic resilience. Research and development (R&D) to enhance core AI capabilities, from autonomous driving and natural language processing to quantum computing, continued unabated. Baidu was at the forefront of many important AI breakthroughs in 2020. This article outlines five significant advances with implications for combating covid-19 as well as transforming the future of our economies and society.


PC Giant Lenovo Plans China Listing, Sending Stock Soaring

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Lenovo Group Ltd. is capitalizing on two booming markets, Chinese stocks and the global PC industry, to list in Shanghai. The company is the world's largest maker of personal computers and is well-known for acquiring IBM's ThinkPad unit and the Motorola Mobility smartphone business. The news that Lenovo would join the STAR Market, China's answer to the Nasdaq, boosted its Hong Kong-traded shares, which on Wednesday hit their highest level since 2015. A series of Chinese technology companies have recently listed in mainland China or in Hong Kong, amid heightened tensions with the U.S. Beijing has also encouraged companies to join the fledgling STAR Market, also known as the Science and Technology Innovation Board, by introducing more relaxed listing rules and other requirements compared with other Chinese markets. Lenovo and Megvii Technology Ltd., an artificial-intelligence startup specializing in facial recognition, will be among the first companies to make use of a structure known as a Chinese depositary receipt to raise funds.


China's Baidu is building an EV with help from Polestar's parent company

Engadget

Baidu has already developed autonomous vehicle tech, but now plans to produce electric vehicles in partnership with Geely, the Chinese automaker that owns Volvo and Polestar, according to MSNBC. The idea is that Geely will design and manufacture the EVs, while Baidu, China's search equivalent to Google, will supply the technology. "China has become the world's largest market for EVs, and we are seeing EV consumers demanding next generation vehicles to be more intelligent," said Baidu CEO Robin Li in a statement. China's EV market is getting more crowded every day, thanks in part to government subsidies and rapidly expanding charging infrastructure. On top of incumbents like Tesla and domestic companies Nio, Xpeng Motors and others, other tech companies like Foxconn (with Byton) and Alibaba are jumping in.


The Business Rules the Trump Administration Is Racing to Finish

NYT > Economy

Mr. Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday banning transactions with eight Chinese software applications, including Alipay. It was the latest escalation of the president's economic war with China. Details and the start of the ban will fall to Mr. Biden, who could decide not to follow through on the idea. Separately, the Trump administration has also banned the import of some cotton from the Xinjiang region, where China has detained vast numbers of people who are members of ethnic minorities and forced them to work in fields and factories. In another move, the administration prohibited several Chinese companies, including the chip maker SMIC and the drone maker DJI, from buying American products.


Nio ET7 electric sedan has 620 miles of range and an incredibly powerful self-driving system

Mashable

Chinese automaker Nio has announced a new flagship model called the ET7, and it hits all the right spots when it comes to specs. The Nio ET7, scheduled to be launched in 2022 in China, is a 5-meter long electric sedan with tons of range, a powerful dual motor and an advanced autonomous driving system, and it's all topped off with a luxurious interior and numerous features for user comfort. The ET7 will be available with three batteries: 70kWh, 100kWh and 150kWh, the largest of which should give it more than 621 miles of range, which is roughly 200 miles better than the best Tesla Model S can do (though it's worth pointing out that Nio calculates range based on the Chinese NEDC system). Nio's new flagship sedan won't be as fast as the fastest Tesla, but it'll come pretty close. Its dual motors have a combined output of 644hp, and give the car a 0-62mph time of 3.9 seconds.