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Uber Still Faces an Existential Race

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Uber acquired Levandowski's company in August 2016 and then put him in charge of the company's autonomous car efforts. But before leaving Waymo to build Otto, Levandowski allegedly downloaded more than 14,000 confidential files. Uber fired Levandowski in May for not cooperating with the Waymo investigation. According to investigators, he had also downloaded 50,000 Google work emails and thousands of smartphone photos of Google products and whiteboard illustrations, a due diligence report released in early October revealed. Uber and Waymo are set to go to court on December 4, in a trial anticipated to run until December 20.


Baidu's New Smart Speaker Looks Like Nothing Else on the Market

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The design is drawing attention: TechCrunch called it "the strangest smart speaker" and Quartz said the device stands out from the smart speaker crowd "for one reason." While it goes on sale in December, Baidu already has a deal to outfit the device in 100 InterContinental Beijing hotels rooms. But that's just the speaker. Baidu also introduced two robots, the Raven R and Raven Q (the latter of which is still in development). The Raven R looks like a cross between Pixar's Luxo Jr. logo and a contemporary art sculpture.


A Dangerous Self-Driving Car Is Still Better Than a Human Driver

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Most technologies come with risk, and often, the only way for people to get over those fears is to let them try things out firsthand. Commercial air travel was probably unthinkable for many people in the mid-20th century, for example, but nowadays it's a normal, boring part of life. One way to jump-start that adoption could be in ride sharing: Google's parent company, Alphabet, is already taking a leap by making some of its Waymo-operated cars in Phoenix fully autonomous (meaning, even without someone in the driver's seat ready to take over). The plan is to test out a few hundred of these cars over the next few months through a car-sharing service that early test riders opt into, like an automated Uber or Lyft. The massive expansion of ride-sharing apps might be an easy way to give cautious consumers a taste for the driverless mode of transportation.


What Exactly Does It Mean to Give a Robot Citizenship?

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A single Sophia with the right to vote, serve on juries, and win elections will have little to no substantive effect in this country, particularly since Hanson and Saudi Arabia have publicly stated she will remain in Saudi Arabia in a planned city where robots are expected to outnumber people. But if Hanson can make one Sophia, the company and others like it can make 100 Sophias, or 1,000 Sophias, or 1 million Sophias. Although Saudi Arabia may be unlikely to use this robot citizenship as a publicity ploy more than once, other countries have shown they will grant special favors for foreign investment. If a company were interested in gaining broad access to the rights of U.S. citizenship, it seems likely that there's at least one nation out there that will trade thousands or millions of robot citizens for manufacturing plants or other economic activity in its borders. If all those robots obtain citizenship in the United States, they could be the next big voter demographic.


Pictures Perfect

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What you're seeing in this video from graphics processing firm Nvidia is the result of two algorithmic adversaries trying to one-up each other. Working from a photo database of 30,000 celebrity faces, the two algorithms learned about different details, like beards and jewelry, that make a face look real to the human eye, and then engaged in a rapid-fire back-and-forth process that produced amazingly realistic results. None of the good-looking folks you see are real, but you'd never know it.


Reading the Mind at Risk

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The possibility of patients who are at risk because they fail to speak up is central to the paper's framing. Its authors note, "Nearly 80% of patients who die by suicide deny suicidal ideation in their last contact with a mental healthcare professional." There, however, they point to a 2003 study of relatively limited scope, one that involved studying the charts of "76 patients who committed suicide while in the hospital, or immediately after discharge." Of those patients, 49 percent had a history of suicide attempts, and 25 percent had been admitted for a suicide attempt. It is difficult to know how these numbers would map onto the larger population.


The Culture Gabfest "What If Crime Is a Response to Our Broken Society?" Edition

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This week, the critics discuss the new Netflix series Mindhunter, starring Jonathan Groff as Holden Ford, an FBI agent during the early days of serial killer investigations, and parse how it differs from standard crime procedurals. Then, Chris Molanphy joins the conversation to talk about the new hit "Rockstar" by Post Malone and explore nihilism in today's hip-hop songs. Finally, the gabbers discuss Martin Scorsese's guest column in the Hollywood Reporter about Rotten Tomatoes and question the validity of his claims.


Who Trained Your A.I.?

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When a company depends on data it didn't collect itself, it disincentivizes the opening up of A.I. systems for scrutiny, explains Levendowski, since it would mean that if companies are making their A.I. systems smarter with unlicensed data they could be held liable. What's more, the fact that large data sets are often copyrighted also means that data is regularly pulled from collections that are either in the public domain or else use data that's been made public, like through WikiLeaks or in the course of an investigation, for example. Works that are in the public domain are not subject to copyright restrictions and are available for anyone to use without paying. The problem with turning to public-domain data, though, is that it is generally old, which means it may reflect the mores and biases of its time. From what books get published to what subjects doctors chose to conduct medical studies on, the history of racism and sexism in America is, in a sense, mirrored through old published data that is now available for free.


It's Time for More Transparency in A.I.

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The risk of letting A.I. run amok in consumer applications is the public losing trust in the technology. For companies such as Facebook, there is an argument to keeping the details of its A.I. under wraps: It's the company's unique intellectual property, a competitive advantage it can't expose. But companies could detail a basic version of how an A.I. system works, and the data sets it was trained on, without revealing the intricate details of the specific algorithms and machine-learning techniques involved. Without some degree of basic knowledge of how a technology like this works, the public can become confused or scared. In the early days of location tracking on phones, people were also weary--sometimes, as it would turn out, with good reason.


It Still Doesn't Really Matter What A.I. Can Score on IQ Tests

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That's partly what makes testing for IQ in A.I. so frustrating. Building an A.I. able to ace an SAT test doesn't necessarily mean it's equipped to do much else. Even if an A.I. agent can pull out information from the entire Encyclopedia Britannica on a penny-drop or solve complex integrals in calculus, it doesn't mean it has the common-sense skills needed to go out and order a sandwich from the nearest deli. How would it know how to wait in line? Decide what's a better combo deal?