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Do We Have Free Will? Maybe It Doesn't Matter - Facts So Romantic

Nautilus

Belief is a special kind of human power. Agustin Fuentes, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame, eloquently claims as much in his recent book Why We Believe: Evolution and the Human Way of Being. It's the "most prominent, promising, and dangerous capacity humanity has evolved," he writes, the power to "see and feel and know something--an idea, a vision, a necessity, a possibility, a truth--that is not immediately present to the senses, and then to invest, wholly and authentically, in that'something' so that it becomes one's reality." A great example of this is the widespread and intuitive idea that we have free will. Most people grow up with the notion that they are, in some sense, responsible for their thoughts and actions because, unlike animals, humans can think about their choices.


When Hackers Were Heroes

Communications of the ACM

Forty years ago, the word "hacker" was little known. Its march from obscurity to newspaper headlines owes a great deal to tech journalist Steven Levy, who in 1984 defied the advice of his publisher to call his first book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.11 Hackers were a subculture of computer enthusiasts for whom programming was a vocation and playing around with computers constituted a lifestyle. Hackers was published only three years after Tracy Kidder's The Soul of a New Machine, explored in my last column (January 2021, p. 32–37), but a lot had changed during the interval. Kidder's assumed readers had never seen a minicomputer, still less designed one. By 1984, in contrast, the computer geek was a prominent part of popular culture. Unlike Kidder, Levy had to make people reconsider what they thought they already knew. Computers were suddenly everywhere, but they remained unfamiliar enough to inspire a host of popular books to ponder the personal and social transformations triggered by the microchip. The short-lived home computer boom had brought computer programming into the living rooms and basements of millions of middle-class Americans, sparking warnings about the perils of computer addiction. A satirical guide, published the same year, warned of "micromania."15 The year before, the film Wargames suggested computer-obsessed youth might accidentally trigger nuclear war.


This Chip for AI Works Using Light, Not Electrons

#artificialintelligence

As demand for artificial intelligence grows, so does hunger for the computer power needed to keep AI running. Lightmatter, a startup born at MIT, is betting that AI's voracious hunger will spawn demand for a fundamentally different kind of computer chip--one that uses light to perform key calculations. "Either we invent new kinds of computers to continue," says Lightmatter CEO Nick Harris, "or AI slows down." Conventional computer chips work by using transistors to control the flow of electrons through a semiconductor. By reducing information to a series of 1s and 0s, these chips can perform a wide array of logical operations, and power complex software.


This Chip for AI Works Using Light, Not Electrons

WIRED

As demand for artificial intelligence grows, so does hunger for the computer power needed to keep AI running. Lightmatter, a startup born at MIT, is betting that AI's voracious hunger will spawn demand for a fundamentally different kind of computer chip--one that uses light to perform key calculations. "Either we invent new kinds of computers to continue," says Lightmatter CEO Nick Harris, "or AI slows down." Conventional computer chips work by using transistors to control the flow of electrons through a semiconductor. By reducing information to a series of 1s and 0s, these chips can perform a wide array of logical operations, and power complex software.


Project Avenger: VR, Big Data Sharpen Navy Pilot Training

#artificialintelligence

WASHINGTON: A new flight training program that relies heavily on VR simulations and detailed data is getting Navy trainees better prepared for real cockpits, with some students qualifying for their first solo flight in less than half the time the traditional curriculum requires. Simulations don't just give trainees plenty of digital dress rehearsals before they climb into a physical aircraft, Navy officials told the vIITSEC simulation & training conference Wednesday. Already, big-data analytics are helping instructors and training-unit commanders better understand their students' progress. As the technology improves in the near future, artificially intelligent algorithms could track every aspect of a trainee's performance in simulation, then provide detailed feedback on what to fix. "Project Avenger is our first experimental proof-of-concept class," said Rear Adm. Robert Westendorff.


Recently widowed otters find love on dating app

FOX News

Fox News Flash top headlines are here. Check out what's clicking on Foxnews.com. Even otters are finding love on the Internet. It's becoming more and more common for couples to meet each other through online dating apps, especially during the pandemic. Such services have apparently become so successful at making love connections that even otters are getting set up online.


Ash dieback: Scale of devastation in British woodlands is revealed in National Trust drone footage

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Drone footage taken by the National Trust has revealed the extent of the devastation being wrought on British woodlands by ash dieback, a deadly fungal infection. The shots taken this autumn show trees dying in Hanging Wood, part of the Trust-administered Hughenden Estate in Buckinghamshire. Some 300 ash trees on the estate will need to be felled this year in the interests of public safety -- with many more left to decay and create homes for wildlife. However, the Trust warned, this is a mere fraction of the 40,000-odd trees that will need cutting down in total across the lands they manage in the UK. Ash dieback -- though to have originated in Asia before spreading as a result of the global plant trade -- is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus.


AI Weekly: Constructive ways to take power back from Big Tech

#artificialintelligence

Facebook launched an independent oversight board and recommitted to privacy reforms this week, but after years of promises made and broken, nobody seems convinced that real change is afoot. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is expected to decide shortly whether to sue Facebook, sources told the New York Times, following a $5 billion fine levied last year. In other investigations, the Department of Justice filed suit against Google this week, accusing the Alphabet company of maintaining multiple monopolies through exclusive agreements, collection of personal data, and artificial intelligence. News also broke this week that Google's AI will play a role in creating a virtual border wall. What you see in each instance is a powerful company insisting it can regulate itself while government regulators appear to reach the opposite conclusion.


The Racial Politics of Kamala Harris's Performance Style

The New Yorker

The senator’s facial expressions have been celebrated on social media, prompting a renewed discussion about people’s ready presumptions of sass and shade when it comes to interpreting the nonverbal gestures of a Black woman at work.


'Palm Springs' is 'Groundhog Day' With a Twist

WIRED

Palm Springs is the latest film to put an original spin on the idea of a character reliving the same day over and over again. Video game journalist Blake J. Harris has loved the concept ever since watching Groundhog Day as a kid. "Groundhog Day is a top five all-time favorite movie," Harris says in Episode 435 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "And Palm Springs is probably my favorite movie I've seen in a year." Palm Springs features three characters--played by Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons--who all relive the same wedding over and over.