MIT Technology Review


How to tell if you're talking to a bot

MIT Technology Review

Twitter recently took drastic action as part of an effort to slow the spread of misinformation through its platform, shutting down more than two million automated accounts, or bots. You can expect the tricksters to up their game when it comes to disguising fake users as real ones. It's important not to be swayed by fake accounts or waste your time arguing with them, and identifying bots in a Twitter thread has become a strange version of the Turing test. Accusing posters of being bots has even become an oddly satisfying way to insult their intelligence. Advances in machine learning hint at how bots could become more humanlike.


The US may have just pulled even with China in the race to build supercomputing's next big thing

MIT Technology Review

There was much celebrating in America last month when the US Department of Energy unveiled Summit, the world's fastest supercomputer. Now the race is on to achieve the next significant milestone in processing power: exascale computing. This involves building a machine within the next few years that's capable of a billion billion calculations per second, or one exaflop, which would make it five times faster than Summit (see chart). Every person on Earth would have to do a calculation every second of every day for just over four years to match what an exascale machine will be able to do in a flash. This phenomenal power will enable researchers to run massively complex simulations that spark advances in many fields, from climate science to genomics, renewable energy, and artificial intelligence.


Confessions of an accidental job destroyer

MIT Technology Review

I expected my summer engineering internship to include things like updating old 3-D models, creating part designs, and learning the ins and outs of how a company works. I didn't expect it to involve learning to make my colleagues obsolete. It was the summer after my sophomore year of college, at a company in Southern California. At the beginning of the internship, my manager asked me to implement 3-D printing to streamline a complicated mold-making process. I have long been obsessed with 3-D printing (I own two machines myself), so I was thrilled to introduce it into the business.


Tierra y libertad

MIT Technology Review

In deepest September, the thick of the pistachio harvest, the autumn sky was usually veiled with dust thrown high as the shakers and receivers vibrated through the trees. But for weeks now, the machines had stopped. This left the whole orchard--almost a hundred thousand acres--more vulnerable to aflatoxin than ever. It was nice to see the stars again. It was also time for the robots to come back to work. "You know, this kind of thing doesn't happen in Iran," Stephens said. Dash's client was the biggest farmer in North America. He wore snakeskin and sandalwood and a linen suit that glowed in the predawn shadow. "What's in Iran?" Dash asked. His gaze wandered over the rows of heavily laden trees. "You ever been to Iran?" Everything about him screamed sales rep: his acid-peel face, his giant watch, the snap of taurine gum between his smiling jaws. The blockchain they developed to track the uranium suddenly developed sentience, and your agency is the only thing keeping us meatsacks from being turned to glass." Brand reps tended to treat Dash as though her work with inorganic species had contaminated her humanity in some irreversible way. Brand reps for agri-bots were apparently no different from the others.


Phoenix will no longer be Phoenix if Waymo's driverless-car experiment succeeds

MIT Technology Review

Sitting in the BMW dealership waiting for a flat to be replaced, I realize I've driven over 100 miles and spent five hours behind the wheel this week. In Phoenix, I am living the life this city has designed for me. A sprawling grid fueled by swooping highways and generous arterial roads, the Phoenix metropolitan area is a gargantuan expression of the car culture that defines the urban experience for most Americans. To use this space, you need a vehicle. Anything else effects your passive or active exclusion from a host of activities and, more broadly, from the culture itself.


Phoenix will no longer be Phoenix if Waymo's driverless-car experiment succeeds

MIT Technology Review

Sitting in the BMW dealership waiting for a flat to be replaced, I realize I've driven over 100 miles and spent five hours behind the wheel this week. In Phoenix, I am living the life this city has designed for me. A sprawling grid fueled by swooping highways and generous arterial roads, the Phoenix metropolitan area is a gargantuan expression of the car culture that defines the urban experience for most Americans. To use this space, you need a vehicle. Anything else effects your passive or active exclusion from a host of activities and, more broadly, from the culture itself.


This is how the robot uprising finally begins

MIT Technology Review

The robot arm is performing a peculiar kind of Sisyphean task. It hovers over a glistening pile of cooked chicken parts, dips down, and retrieves a single piece. A moment later, it swings around and places the chunk of chicken, ever so gently, into a bento box moving along a conveyor belt. This robot, created by a San Francisco–based company called Osaro, is smarter than any you've seen before. The software that controls it has taught it to pick and place chicken in about five seconds--faster than your average food-processing worker.


Rebuilding Germany's centuries-old vocational program

MIT Technology Review

Within buildings 10 and 30 of the Siemens complex on the outskirts of Munich, the next generation of German workers are toiling over a range of test projects. The assignments are carefully chosen to impart the skills needed to continue the German miracle in automated manufacturing. In one room, a group of young men train to be automotive mechatronic engineers. They've just spent the past week feverishly programming a diminutive working model of an automated production line--complete with sensors, conveyor belts, and tools that work without human input. They're able to discuss their work in surprisingly good English, but what sets them apart from their peers in the US is that none of them attend a university.


Basic income could work--if you do it Canada-style

MIT Technology Review

Dana Bowman, 56, expresses gratitude for fresh produce at least 10 times in the hour and a half we're having coffee on a frigid spring day in Lindsay, Ontario. Over the many years she scraped by on government disability payments, she tended to stick to frozen vegetables. She'd also save by visiting a food bank or buying marked-down items near or past their sell-by date. But since December, Bowman has felt secure enough to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. She's freer, she says, to "do what nanas do" for her grandchildren, like having all four of them over for turkey on Easter.


Why robots helped Donald Trump win

MIT Technology Review

Ronald Shrewsbery II used to be the Robot Doctor. Now he's known by the more bureaucratic-sounding title "WCM (World Class Manufacturing) Electrical Technical Specialist," but he still doctors the robots. There are a thousand of these machines inside Ohio's Toledo Assembly Complex, a 312-acre manufacturing leviathan dedicated to producing Jeeps. The Toledo Assembly Complex is one of the most heavily automated car factories in the United States. It can extrude 500 cars in a shift, far more than the Cove, the old Jeep plant that was shut down in 2006. And the machines make the work easier. There used to be a lot more lifting, more pushing.