Boaty McBoatface may be better known for its name than for its oceangoing prowess. But the autonomous underwater vehicle and darling of the internet is headed to greater things: embarking on the longest journey of an AUV by far, with an uninterrupted, roughly 2,000-mile crossing of the Arctic Ocean. The submersible robot got its moniker when it became the consolation prize in a 2016 publicity stunt. The United Kingdom's Natural Environmental Research Council had created an online poll to name the country's new polar research ship. The public picked "Boaty McBoatface" (suggested by a BBC radio announcer), but the British government nixed the idea and named the ship after naturalist David Attenborough.
Elon Musk is no stranger to bold predictions, and on Tuesday, he lobbed another one at self-driving tech doubters: The Tesla CEO said the electric carmaker's full self-driving feature will be completed by the end of 2019. And by the end of 2020, he added, it will be so capable, you'll be able to snooze in the driver seat while it takes you from your parking lot to wherever you're going. "I think we will be'feature complete' on full self-driving this year, meaning the car will be able to find you in a parking lot, pick you up, take you all the way to your destination without an intervention this year," Musk said during a podcast interview with the money management firm ARK Invest, which is a Tesla investor. "I am certain of that. That is not a question mark."
When Norbert Wiener, the father of cybernetics, wrote his book The Human Use of Human Beings in 1950, vacuum tubes were still the primary electronic building blocks, and there were only a few actual computers in operation. But he imagined the future we now contend with in impressive detail and with few clear mistakes. More than any other early philosopher of artificial intelligence, he recognized that AI would not just imitate--and replace--human beings in many intelligent activities but change human beings in the process. "We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water," he wrote. "We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves."
If you had visited the Cambridge University Library in the late 1990s, you might have observed a skinny young man, his face illuminated by the glow of a laptop screen, camping out in the stacks. William Tunstall- Pedoe had wrapped up his studies in computer science several years earlier, but he still relished the musty aroma of old paper, the feeling of books pressing in from every side. The library received a copy of nearly everything published in the United Kingdom, and the sheer volume of information--5 million books and 1.2 million periodicals--inspired him. It was around this time, of course, that another vast repository of knowledge--the internet--was taking shape. Google, with its famous mission statement "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," was proudly stepping into its role as librarian to the planet.
That's the bot talking, offering a breezy response to a mildly apologetic email: Your coworker wants to reschedule a meeting? And they've proposed a new time? If you've opted in to Gmail's Smart Replies, these exchanges should look familiar. But us humans are proving eager to make the trade: More than 10 percent of all replies on Gmail now start with a suggested Smart Reply. The apps we rely on to stay productive at the office are being infused with ever larger helpings of artificial intelligence.
AI Researcher Bethanie Maples has been reading science fiction since she was given a copy of Dune at 10 years old. Still, two decades and nearly 1,000 books later, the self-described sci-fi fanatic struggles to find books that delve into her most niche interests, like the link between AI and transhumanism. So last year, while working at Stanford's Human Computer Interaction lab, she teamed up with data scientists Eric Berlow and Srini Kadamati to create a book recommendation tool based on more than 100 salient sci-fi themes, from hyperspace to magical feminism. Using data scraping, network analysis, and machine learning, the resulting Science Fiction Concept Corpus includes more than 2,600 books written since 1900. We made our own voyage into Maples' sci-fi universe.
A proposed safety standard for self-driving cars, based on the road etiquette of humans. In 1909, when horseless carriages were all the rage, a magazine called Country Life in America advised new drivers on "the ethics of good roadmanship." Motorists, it urged, should go slow to avoid spooking the animals pulling other vehicles. Today we face a similar anxious transition with the advent of driverless carriages, and that quaint term, roadmanship, is back in circulation. A new Rand Corporation report, commissioned by Uber, revives the notion as a basis for long- overdue safety standards in autonomous vehicles.
Managing your tasks shouldn't be a distraction unto itself. These desk mates let your phone handle the hard stuff. Pocket archives web articles, news stories, and online documents into a personal library so you can read them later in the app's distraction-free interface. Use it to collect industry headlines, then sync them to your phone for offline reading on the train or the bus. Every app on your home screen is a potential distraction.
Humans pricked by info-hunger pangs used to hunt and peck for scraps of trivia on the savanna of the internet. Now we sit in screen-glow-flooded caves and grunt, "Alexa!" Virtual assistants do the dirty work for us. Problem is, computers can't really speak the language. Many of our densest, most reliable troves of knowledge, from Wikipedia to (ahem) the pages of WIRED, are encoded in an ancient technology largely opaque to machines--prose.
It began about a decade ago at Syracuse University, with a set of equations scrawled on a blackboard. Marc Howard, a cognitive neuroscientist now at Boston University, and Karthik Shankar, who was then one of his postdoctoral students, wanted to figure out a mathematical model of time processing: a neurologically computable function for representing the past, like a mental canvas onto which the brain could paint memories and perceptions. "Think about how the retina acts as a display that provides all kinds of visual information," Howard said. "That's what time is, for memory. And we want our theory to explain how that display works."