The Guardian


How the moon landing shaped early video games

The Guardian

On 20 July 1969, before an estimated television audience of 650 million, a lunar module named Eagle touched down on the moon's Sea of Tranquility. The tension of the landing and the images of astronauts in futuristic spacesuits striding over the moon's barren surface, Earth reflected in their oversized visors, would prove wildly influential to artists, writers and film-makers. Also watching were the soon-to-be proponents of another technological field populated by brilliant young geeks: computer games. It is perhaps no coincidence that during the early 1960s, when Nasa was working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Instrumentation Lab to develop the guidance and control systems for Apollo spacecraft, elsewhere on campus a programmer named Steve Russell was working with a small team to create one of the first true video game experiences. Inspired by the space race, and using the same DEC PDP-1 model of mainframe computer that generated spacecraft telemetry data for Nasa's Mariner programme, Russell wrote Spacewar!, a simple combat game in which two players controlled starships with limited fuel, duelling around the gravitational well of a nearby star.


Automatic for the people? Experts predict how AI will transform the workplace

The Guardian

Workplaces should use automation technologies to enhance employees' jobs rather than to replace humans, according to speakers at an event held by the Guardian on 11 July. However, they saw problems in the introduction of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, the latter including software as well as physical machines. "Humans should not worry too much about replacement, but need to find new ways to work together with AI," said Chelsea Chen, co-founder of Emotech, a company which makes a voice-operated device called Olly that aims to recognise users' emotions as well the content of speech. Chen said that human employees are likely to remain better at dealing with people's emotions than computers. She says Olly can express excitement in response to what a user says, but that does not make it conscious: "Any job which is highly relevant to people will be really hard to replace."


Is FaceApp an evil plot by 'the Russians' to steal your data? Not quite Arwa Mahdawi

The Guardian

Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This "challenge" involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened old self on the internet and everyone laughs uproariously. You get a small surge of dopamine from gathering a few online likes before existential ennui sets in once again. On Monday, as the #faceappchallenge went viral, Joshua Nozzi, a software developer, warned people to "BE CAREFUL WITH FACEAPP….it Some media outlets picked this claim up and privacy concerns about the app began to mount. Concern escalated further when people started to point out that FaceApp is Russian. "The app that you're willingly giving all your facial data to says the company's location is in Saint-Petersburg, Russia," tweeted the New York Times's Charlie Warzel. And we all know what those Russians are like, don't we? They want to harvest your data for nefarious ...


FaceApp denies storing users' photographs without permission

The Guardian

The developer of a popular app which transforms users' faces to predict how they will look as older people has insisted they are not accessing users' photographs without permission. FaceApp, which was launched by a Russian developer in 2017, uses artificial intelligence allowing people to see how they would look with different hair colour, eye colour or as a different gender. The app has topped download charts again this week, after users homed in on its ageing filter, which has since been used by dozens of celebrities and prominent figures to picture how they will supposedly look in several decades' time. This surge of interest has in turn created concerns that FaceApp is systematically harvesting users' images. People who upload their image to the app transfer the picture to a server controlled by the developer, with the photograph processing done remotely, rather than on their phone.


Elon Musk's Neuralink unveils effort to build implant that can read your mind

The Guardian

Elon Musk's secretive "brain-machine interface" startup, Neuralink, stepped out of the shadows on Tuesday evening, revealing its progress in creating a wireless implantable device that can – theoretically – read your mind. At an event at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, Musk touted the startup's achievements since he founded it in 2017 with the goal of staving off what he considers to be an "existential threat": artificial intelligence (AI) surpassing human intelligence. Two years later, Neuralink claims to have achieved major advances toward Musk's goal of having human and machine intelligence work in "symbiosis". Neurolink says it has designed very small "threads" – smaller than a human hair – that can be injected into the brain to detect the activity of neurons. It also says it has developed a robot to insert those threads in the brain, under the direction of a neurosurgeon.


Google whistleblower launches project to keep tech ethical

The Guardian

Employees of tech companies should have the right to know when they are working on projects they may find ethically unacceptable, a former Google whistleblower has said. In 2018, Jack Poulson hit headlines after he resigned from his job at Google over the company's (now-scrapped) plan to build a censorship AI for the Chinese search market. Now, he wants to make sure that other tech workers can fight for what's right without having to put their livelihood on the line. Poulson has started Tech Inquiry, a non-profit that aims to make it easier for coders with a conscience to speak out inside their companies when they feel ethical boundaries are being crossed. Just as importantly, he's pushing for greater transparency to prevent workers simply being tricked into doing work that they would never take on voluntarily.


My poker face: AI wins multiplayer game for first time

The Guardian

An artificial intelligence called Pluribus has emerged victorious from a marathon 12-day poker session during which it played five human professionals at a time. Over 10,000 hands of no-limit Texas hold'em, the most popular form of the game, Pluribus won a virtual $48,000 (£38,000), beating five elite players who were selected each day from a pool who agreed to take on the program. All of the pros had previously won more than $1m playing the game. What counts as a beating for humanity ranks as a milestone for AI. No computer program has ever achieved superhuman performance against multiple poker players.


Google workers can listen to what people say to its AI home devices

The Guardian

Google acknowledged its contractors are able to listen to recordings of what people say to the company's artificial-intelligence system, Google Assistant. The company admitted on Thursday that humans can access recordings made by the Assistant, after some of its Dutch language recordings were leaked. Google is investigating the breach. The recordings were obtained by the Belgian public broadcaster VRT, which reviewed more than 1,000 audio clips and found 153 had been captured accidentally. Google Assistant begins automatically recording audio when prompted by a user, usually by saying a wake-up word or phrase like, "OK, Google".


NSW suggests facial recognition could replace Opal cards in 'not too distant future'

The Guardian

Facial recognition could be used to replace swipe cards on public transport, the New South Wales government has suggested, but the opposition and digital rights groups say it would pose a risk to privacy. The transport minister, Andrew Constance, said on Tuesday he wanted commuters "in the not too distant future" to be able to board trains using only their faces, with no need for Opal cards, barriers or turnstiles. "I'm about to outline some concepts which may seem pretty crazy and far-fetched," he told the Sydney Institute on Tuesday. "But look at it this way – who would have thought in 1970 that you'd be able to use a handheld device to have a video conversation with someone on the other side of the world? "I want people to not think about their travel.


NHS teams up with Amazon to bring Alexa to patients

The Guardian

The NHS has teamed up with Amazon to allow elderly people, blind people and other patients who cannot easily search for health advice on the internet to access the information through the AI-powered voice assistant Alexa. The health service hopes patients asking Alexa for health advice will ease pressure on the NHS, with Amazon's algorithm using information from the NHS website to provide answers to questions such as: "Alexa, how do I treat a migraine?"; 'Alexa, what are the symptoms of flu?'; and "Alexa what are the symptoms of chickenpox?" The Department of Health (DoH) said it would empower patients and hopefully reduce the pressure on the NHS by providing reliable information on common illnesses. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: "Technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists."