By any criteria, 5G is a significant advance on the previous 4G standards. The first 5G networks already offer download speeds of up to 600 megabits per second and have the potential to get significantly faster. By contrast, 4G generally operates at up to 28 Mbits/s--and most mobile-phone users will have experienced that rate grinding to zero from time to time, for reasons that aren't always clear.
If you believe tech optimists, 10 years from now self-driving cars will be ubiquitous, drones will deliver our parcels, and robots will bring us our groceries. And one day soon, our cities will be painted with augmented reality that feels as if it belongs to the street corner where it was placed. Whether or not any of that comes to pass, one piece of the puzzle will be crucial to this future: ultra-precise location technology. GPS and the wandering blue dot on smartphone mapping apps are useful for a human navigating an unfamiliar city, but that just won't cut it for machines. They will need to know where things are down to the centimeter.
Last Wednesday, US lawmakers introduced a new bill that represents one of the country's first major efforts to regulate AI. There are likely to be more to come. It hints at a dramatic shift in Washington's stance toward one of this century's most powerful technologies. Only a few years ago, policymakers had little inclination to regulate AI. Now, as the consequences of not doing so grow increasingly tangible, a small contingent in Congress is advancing a broader strategy to rein the technology in.
Robots in factories today are powerful and precise, but dumb as toast. A new robot arm, developed by a team of researchers from UC Berkeley, is meant to change that by providing a cheap-yet-powerful platform for AI experimentation. The team likens their creation to the Apple II, the personal computer that attracted hobbyists and hackers in the 1970s and '80s, ushering in a technological revolution. Robots and AI have evolved in parallel as areas of research for decades. In recent years, however, AI has advanced rapidly when applied to abstract problems like labeling images or playing video games.
After little more than a week, Google backtracked on creating its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council, or ATEAC--a committee meant to give the company guidance on how to ethically develop new technologies such as AI. The inclusion of the Heritage Foundation's president, Kay Coles James, on the council caused an outcry over her anti-environmentalist, anti-LGBTQ, and anti-immigrant views, and led nearly 2,500 Google employees to sign a petition for her removal. Instead, the internet giant simply decided to shut down the whole thing. How did things go so wrong? And can Google put them right?
Algorithms are biased--and Facebook's is no exception. Just last week, the tech giant was sued by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development over the way it let advertisers purposely target their ads by race, gender, and religion--all protected classes under US law. The company announced that it would stop allowing this. But new evidence shows that Facebook's algorithm, which automatically decides who is shown an ad, carries out the same discrimination anyway, serving up ads to over two billion users on the basis of their demographic information. A team led by Muhammad Ali and Piotr Sapiezynski at Northeastern University ran a series of otherwise identical ads with slight variations in available budget, headline, text, or image.
What makes basil so good? Machine learning has been used to create basil plants that are extra-delicious. While we sadly cannot report firsthand on the herb's taste, the effort reflects a broader trend that involves using data science and machine learning to improve agriculture. The researchers behind the AI-optimized basil used machine learning to determine the growing conditions that would maximize the concentration of the volatile compounds responsible for basil's flavor. The study appears in the journal PLOS One today.
In one of Aesop's fables, a thirsty crow finds a pitcher with a small amount of water beyond the reach of its beak. After failing to push the pitcher over, the crow drops pebbles in one by one until the water level rises, allowing the bird to have a drink. For Aesop, the fable showed the superiority of intelligence over brute strength. Two and a half millennia later, we might get to see whether AI could pass Aesop's ancient intelligence test. In June, researchers will train algorithms to master a suite of tasks that have traditionally been used to test animal cognition.
Developing and commercializing artificial intelligence has proved an ethical mine field for companies like Google. The company has seen its algorithms accused of perpetuating race and gender bias and fueling efforts to build autonomous weapons. The search giant now hopes that a team of philosophers, engineers, and policy experts will help it navigate the moral hazards presented by artificial intelligence without press scandals, employee protests, or legal trouble. Kent Walker, Google's senior vice president for global affairs and chief legal officer, announced the creation of a new independent body to review the company's AI practices at EmTech Digital, an AI conference in San Francisco organized by MIT Technology Review. Walker said that the group, known as the Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), would review the company's projects and plans and produce reports to help determine if any of them contravene the company's own AI principles.
Carbon sequestration Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions alone won't be enough to prevent sharp increases in global temperatures. We'll also need to remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which not only would be incredibly expensive but would present us with the thorny problem of what to do with all that CO2. A growing number of startups are exploring ways of recycling carbon dioxide into products, including synthetic fuels, polymers, carbon fiber, and concrete. That's promising, but what we'll really need is a cheap way to permanently store the billions of tons of carbon dioxide that we might have to pull out of the atmosphere. Grid-scale energy storage Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are becoming cheap and more widely deployed, but they don't generate electricity when the sun's not shining or wind isn't blowing.