The Atlantic


The Era of Fake Video Begins

The Atlantic

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era.


Enough With the Trolley Problem

The Atlantic

You know the drill by now: A runaway trolley is careening down a track. There are five workers ahead, sure to be killed if the trolley reaches them. You can throw a lever to switch the trolley to a neighboring track, but there's a worker on that one as well who would likewise be doomed. Do you hit the switch and kill one person, or do nothing and kill five? That's the most famous version of the trolley problem, a philosophical thought experiment popularized in the 1970s.


The Man With the Most Valuable Work Experience in the World

The Atlantic

Chris Urmson led Google's self-driving car team from its early days all the way until the company shed its Google skin and emerged under the Alphabet umbrella as Waymo, the obvious leader in driverless cars. But though Urmson pushed the organization far enough up the technological mountain to see the possibility that Waymo would be the first to commercially deploy automated vehicles, he did not make it to the promised land. Instead, after current Waymo CEO John Krafcik took control of the enterprise, Urmson left in December of 2016. After a few months pondering his next move, he cofounded Aurora, a new self-driving car start-up, with Sterling Anderson, who'd launched Autopilot at Tesla, and Drew Bagnell, a machine-learning expert who'd been at Uber. When the company came out of stealth in early 2017, it was greeted with something like awe.


The Most Important Self-Driving Car Announcement Yet

The Atlantic

The company's autonomous vehicles have driven 5 million miles since Alphabet began the program back in 2009. The first million miles took roughly six years. The next million took about a year. The third million took less than eight months. The fourth million took six months.


Uber's Collision, Facebook's Disgrace

The Atlantic

Elaine Herzberg, a 49-year-old woman, was walking her bicycle across a road when a Volvo SUV, outfitted with Uber's radar technology and in fully autonomous mode, collided with her. The car was traveling at 38 miles per hour in a 35-mile-per-hour zone, and it did not attempt to brake before striking her, according to Tempe police. It is the first time that a self-driving car, operating in fully autonomous mode, has killed a pedestrian. Sylvia Moir, the police chief of Tempe, announced on Tuesday that Uber was likely not at fault for the collision. But after her department released footage of the collision on Wednesday, transportation experts said it showed a "catastrophic failure" of Uber's technology.


My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data

The Atlantic

For a spell during 2010 and 2011, I was a virtual rancher of clickable cattle on Facebook. It feels like a long time ago. Obama was serving his first term as president. Google hadn't arrived, let alone vanished again. Steve Jobs was still alive, as was Kim Jong Il.


Self-Driving Cars Still Don't Know How to See

The Atlantic

A self-driving car is like a regular car, but with sensors on the outside and a few powerful laptops hidden inside. The sensors, which are GPS, LIDAR, and cameras, transmit information back to the car's computer system. The best way to imagine the perspective of a self-driving car is to imagine you are driving in a 1980s-style first-person driving video game. The world is a 3-D grid with x, y, and z coordinates. The car moves through the grid from point A to point B, using highly precise GPS measurements gathered from nearby satellites.


Can You Sue a Robocar?

The Atlantic

On Sunday night, a self-driving car operated by Uber struck and killed a pedestrian, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg, on North Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. It appears to be the first time an automobile driven by a computer has killed a human being by force of impact. The car was traveling at 38 miles per hour. An initial investigation by Tempe police indicated that the pedestrian might have been at fault. According to that report, Herzberg appears to have come "from the shadows," stepping off the median into the roadway, and ending up in the path of the car while jaywalking across the street.


Drone Swarms Are Going to Be Terrifying and Hard to Stop

The Atlantic

"More than a dozen armed drones descended from an unknown location onto Russia's vast Hmeimim air base in northwestern Latakia province, the headquarters of Russia's military operations in Syria, and on the nearby Russian naval base at Tartus," The Washington Post reported. "Russia said that it shot down seven of the 13 drones and used electronic countermeasures to safely bring down the other six." And these drones appeared substantially less sophisticated and maneuverable than a DJI Phantom 4, the leading consumer drone. The National Academy notes that most of the counterstrategies that the Army has developed are "based on jamming radio frequency and GPS signals." The thinking was: Drones needed those information flows to navigate effectively.


SkyKnit: How an AI Took Over an Adult Knitting Community

The Atlantic

Janelle Shane is a humorist who creates and mines her material from neural networks, the form of machine learning that has come to dominate the field of artificial intelligence over the last half-decade. Perhaps you've seen the candy-heart slogans she generated for Valentine's Day: DEAR ME, MY MY, LOVE BOT, CUTE KISS, MY BEAR, and LOVE BUN. Her latest project, still ongoing, pushes the joke into a new, physical realm. Prodded by a knitter on the knitting forum Ravelry, Shane trained a type of neural network on a series of over 500 sets of knitting instructions. Then, she generated new instructions, which members of the Ravelry community have actually attempted to knit.