MIT Technology Review


A Cheap and Easy Blood Test Could Catch Cancer Early

MIT Technology Review

A simple-to-take test that tells if you have a tumor lurking, and even where it is in your body, is a lot closer to reality--and may cost only $500. The new test, developed at Johns Hopkins University, looks for signs of eight common types of cancer. It requires only a blood sample and may prove inexpensive enough for doctors to give during a routine physical. "The idea is this test would make its way into the public and we could set up screening centers," says Nickolas Papadopoulos, one of the Johns Hopkins researchers behind the test. "That's why it has to be cheap and noninvasive."


Slack Hopes Its AI Will Keep You from Hating Slack

MIT Technology Review

If you work at one of the 50,000 companies that pay to use Slack for workplace collaboration, you probably spend hours on it, swapping information, bantering, and sharing files with your colleagues. It's a casual, flexible way to interact--you tap out brief messages in group chat rooms (called channels) instead of sending e-mail, and it feels more like a smartphone app than typical office software. But while it can be an efficient way to collaborate, keeping up with Slack can become a full-time task, particularly when you return from a few days away and find thousands of status updates, scattered across dozens of channels. Slack estimates that the average user sends 70 messages per day. How can you know which are must-reads and which can be skipped?


And the Award for Most Nauseating Self-Driving Car Goes to …

MIT Technology Review

In many ways this year's CES looked a lot more like an autonomous-car show than a consumer electronics show. There were announcements aplenty from the likes of Ford, Baidu, Toyota, and others about self-driving vehicles, upcoming driving tests, and new partners. In a parking lot across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, several companies offered rides; you could even schedule a ride in a self-driving Lyft through the company's app and get dropped off at one of many casinos on the Strip. A couple of miles away in downtown Las Vegas, an eight-passenger autonomous shuttle bus ran in a loop around Fremont Street. It was part of an ongoing test between commuter transit company Keolis, autonomous-car maker Navya, and the city.


And the Award for Most Nauseating Self-Driving Car Goes to …

MIT Technology Review

In many ways this year's CES looked a lot more like an autonomous-car show than a consumer electronics show. There were announcements aplenty from the likes of Ford, Baidu, Toyota, and others about self-driving vehicles, upcoming driving tests, and new partners. In a parking lot across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, several companies offered rides; you could even schedule a ride in a self-driving Lyft through the company's app and get dropped off at one of many casinos on the Strip. A couple of miles away in downtown Las Vegas, an eight-passenger autonomous shuttle bus ran in a loop around Fremont Street. It was part of an ongoing test between commuter transit company Keolis, autonomous-car maker Navya, and the city.


The Great AI Paradox

MIT Technology Review

You've probably heard versions of each of the following ideas. With computers becoming remarkably adept at driving, understanding speech, and other tasks, more jobs could soon be automated than society is prepared to handle. This "superintelligence" will largely make human labor unnecessary. In fact, we'd better hope that machines don't eliminate us altogether, either accidentally or on purpose. Even though the first scenario is already under way, it won't necessarily lead to the second one.


Google and Others Are Building AI Systems That Doubt Themselves

MIT Technology Review

The most powerful approach in AI, deep learning, is gaining a new capability: a sense of uncertainty. Researchers at Uber and Google are working on modifications to the two most popular deep-learning frameworks that will enable them to handle probability. This will provide a way for the smartest AI programs to measure their confidence in a prediction or a decision--essentially, to know when they should doubt themselves. Deep learning, which involves feeding example data to a large and powerful neural network, has been an enormous success over the past few years, enabling machines to recognize objects in images or transcribe speech almost perfectly. But it requires lots of training data and computing power, and it can be surprisingly brittle.


Six Cyber Threats to Really Worry About in 2018

MIT Technology Review

Hackers are constantly finding new targets and refining the tools they use to break through cyberdefenses. The following are some significant threats to look out for this year. The cyberattack on the Equifax credit reporting agency in 2017, which led to the theft of Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other data on almost half the U.S. population, was a stark reminder that hackers are thinking big when it comes to targets. Other companies that hold lots of sensitive information will be in their sights in 2018. Marc Goodman, a security expert and the author of Future Crimes, thinks data brokers who hold information about things such as people's personal Web browsing habits will be especially popular targets.


The Biggest Technology Failures of 2017

MIT Technology Review

MIT Technology Review spends most of the year identifying and writing about the most important emerging technologies. One day each year we highlight the worst of the lot. Some ideas just do not belong together. This year you can add "DIY--gene therapy" to the list. Josiah Zayner did it on video in August, injecting himself with a syringe full of the DNA-slashing chemicals known as CRISPR, in a blend he concocted himself to strengthen his muscles.


Best Online Classes for Job Skills

MIT Technology Review

In 2017, people flocked to online classes about artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, and data analytics. In 2018, expect more of the same, say leading online-education providers Codecademy, Coursera, edX, and Udacity. In response to a request from MIT Technology Review, they calculated their most popular courses of the past year and revealed which topics they think will lure the most students in the next. More than 29 million people have registered to take classes at Coursera, an online platform that hosts more than 2,000 courses from universities such as Stanford and Yale. Nikhil Sinha, the company's chief content officer, says many who enroll are "looking for a leg up in their careers" and gravitate to the platform's "cutting-edge tech" courses.


Our Best Stories of 2017

MIT Technology Review

We asked each of our staff to suggest the best story they had written or edited in 2017--the most important, most interesting, or best executed. I found the scientists quietly thinking about how to make better--or just different--kinds of humans to colonize outer space. From our dreams of space travel, a surprisingly strong ethical argument emerges in favor of messing with an individual's genetic code. Kids like my four-year-old niece Hannah are growing up from infancy with digital assistants, and it's time to start talking about what effect it will have on them. My story attempted to start a serious conversation on an under-explored topic despite the scarcity of academic research.