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Stop talking about AI ethics. It's time to talk about power.


At the turn of the 20th century, a German horse took Europe by storm. Clever Hans, as he was known, could seemingly perform all sorts of tricks previously limited to humans. He could add and subtract numbers, tell time and read a calendar, even spell out words and sentences--all by stamping out the answer with a hoof. "A" was one tap; "B" was two; 2 3 was five. He was an international sensation--and proof, many believed, that animals could be taught to reason as well as humans.

Artificial intelligence in Health Insurance - Current Applications and Trends


Health insurance is a critical component of the healthcare industry with private health insurance expenditures alone estimated at $1.1 billion in 2016, according to the latest data available from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This figure represents 34 percent of the 2016 National Health Expenditure at $3.3 trillion. In this article, we will look at four AI applications that are tackling problems of underutilization and fraud in the insurance industry. Some applications below claim that they are using artificial intelligence to help improve health insurance cost efficiency, while reducing waste of money on underutilized or preventable care. Other applications claim to detect fraudulent claims.

No joke: World of Warships just added Leroy Jenkins as a playable character


If there was a commander you could add to your naval video game ship, what better person would it be than the actual Leroy Jenkins? World of Warships said it will add US Navy veteran Leroy Jenkins as a playable character in its free to play game. While gamers may only know the legendary meme and battle cry of "Leeeeeroy Jenkins!" from World of Warcraft, the Leroy Jenkins being added to World of Warships is a sailor who served on Navy destroyer USS Kidd during the Korean War 78 years ago. Jenkins came to the attention of World of Warships officials during a visit to the actual USS Kidd museum in Baton Rouge, where Jenkins was a volunteer for 14 years. If you're wondering if the actual Leroy Jenkins had anything to do with the World of Warcraft viral meme scream of "Leeeeroy Jenkins!" it's unknown.

News at a glance


SCI COMMUN### Planetary science The Wright brothers' storied flight at Kitty Hawk had a sequel this week more than 288 million kilometers away: Ingenuity, NASA's $80 million minihelicopter, took a 1-minute test hop on Mars, the first controlled flight of a powered aircraft on another planet. The autonomous 1.8-kilogram machine, the size of a tissue box, spun up its 1.2-meter rotors to more than 2500 revolutions per minute before ascending about 3 meters and hovering in the thin martian air. Ingenuity rotated and took a picture before alighting back on the surface. NASA plans to send Ingenuity, which first landed on Mars on 18 February with the Perseverance rover, on four more flights of increasing height and distance and to use the resulting data to build larger, more ambitious helicopters to explore the Red Planet. 14 of 15 —U.S. states not requiring people to wear masks in public recorded relatively high rates of new COVID-19 cases from May to October 2020. None of eight states with high mask wearing had high rates of infection. ( PLOS ONE ) ### Natural resources Just 19% of Earth's lands are truly wild, with no history of human impact, a new study shows. In other parts of the globe, however, biodiversity hot spots have survived even where humans thrived, thanks in part to millennia of beneficial land management practices by Indigenous people, these researchers conclude. By 10,000 years ago, humans had already spread across three-quarters of the globe, and their controlled burns, small-scale farming, and other practices may have sustained or even improved biodiversity, according to the analysis of past and present land use, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . The finding sheds light on a long debate between archaeologists, who cited evidence of this lengthy history, and conservationists, who have insisted that humans did not significantly affect biodiversity until intensive agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation began 200 years ago. Because of the present-day overlap between biodiversity hot spots and lands occupied by Indigenous people, the study bolsters the idea that the growing push to help them regain and retain control over their lands might help protect biodiversity. ### Astronomy The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, which in 2019 produced the first image of a black hole's shadow, this week completed another observing campaign, its first in 3 years. Organizers hope their network of radio telescopes will reveal more of the dark heart of the nearby M87 galaxy as well as the Milky Way's center and the quasar 3C 273. EHT must synchronize 10 observatories across the globe in good weather, so its observing window each year is short. Three observatories joined the network this year (including the Kitt Peak 12-meter telescope in Arizona, below), which will sharpen images. Researchers gathered data for more than seven full nights over 2 weeks this month, and EHT spokesperson Eduardo Ros called the results “excellent.” Now begins a long wait as recorded data are shipped to Boston and Bonn, Germany, for months of processing before an image might be revealed. ### Scientific societies The 90-year-old American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) has rechristened itself in order to separate today's association from the field's racist and colonial past. At AAPA's virtual annual meeting last week, an overwhelming majority of members voted to delete the word “physical” and become the American Association of Biological Anthropologists. They acknowledged that the old name has roots in the 19th century, when early anthropologists helped create damaging concepts of race by quantifying physical differences among people. The new name conveys that anthropology is now a multidisciplinary biological science that deals with the adaptations, variability, and evolution of humans and their living and fossil relatives, as well as their culture and behavior, according to a statement by the current and past AAPA presidents. “Importantly, the change allows us to reflect deeply on issues of racism and colonialism, which, at times, permeated the field of ‘physical anthropology,’” they wrote. ### Climate science California and its partners announced plans last week to launch two satellites by 2023 to spot plumes of planet-warming carbon dioxide and methane. The $100 million Carbon Mapper project, financed by publisher Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists, will advance efforts to track concentrated emissions of greenhouse gases that rise from sources such as fossil fuel power plants and leaky pipelines. Previous satellites have lacked the resolution, sensitivity, and focus to collect the data officials need in order to regulate the emissions effectively. The new spacecraft will rely on “hyperspectral” imaging spectrometers that can record more than 400 visible and infrared wavelengths, whose patterns can reveal the abundances of certain gases in the atmosphere below. ### Public health A tiny fraction of the U.S. residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by 14 April have become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week. The agency said it expected some “breakthrough” infections and that the low numbers support the value of the inoculations. CDC said it received 5814 reports of such infections in 75 million people vaccinated in 43 U.S. states and territories. Of the infected people, 65% were female, 45% were 60 or older, and 29% were asymptomatic. Seven percent were hospitalized, and 1% died, some from causes unrelated to COVID-19. CDC cautioned that the data from the states reporting might be incomplete. Public health specialists say the infections were more likely to have resulted from weak immune responses to vaccination than to mutations in the virus that let it evade those defenses. ### COVID-19 Researchers at the University of Oxford will intentionally reinfect people previously infected by the virus that causes COVID-19 to study their immune responses and symptoms. The “human challenge trial,” announced on 19 April, will initially re-expose up to 64 volunteers who previously tested positive for the virus and measure what viral dose triggers new infections. A U.K. government ethics panel approved the study and a similar one led by Imperial College London scientists who are evaluating the performance of COVID-19 vaccines. Such experiments may provide results faster than other trial methods allow. ### Anthropology More than 1300 skulls held in a museum collection that was used to justify racism will now be available for return to communities of the people's descendants, the University of Pennsylvania said last week. Samuel Morton started the collection in the 19th century and used studies of its contents to support the idea of white superiority. Many of the crania belonged to enslaved Africans and Indigenous people. In a statement, Christopher Woods, director of the university's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where the Morton Cranial Collection is held, apologized for the “unethical possession of human remains.” The museum will work to identify descendant communities and accept requests for the return of any crania in the collection. Repatriation of human remains, especially Black and Indigenous ancestors, “is part of a cultural and social reckoning” about how to address anthropology's history of racism, Woods says. ### Scientific meetings A talk last week at the virtual annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) sparked criticism for arguing against a key U.S. law giving Native Americans rights to the human remains and artifacts of their ancestors. Many society members were outraged that SAA gave a platform to what they considered a racist and anti-Indigenous presentation. Some note that this incident comes after a sexual harassment scandal at the organization's 2019 conference. In her talk, SAA member and anthropologist Elizabeth Weiss of San Jose State University said archaeologists “have let creationism into the heart of our discipline” because the law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), allows Indigenous communities to request repatriation of remains, which they may do partly because of religious beliefs. But archaeologists widely support the law, under which many tribes have collaborated with researchers. In response to the criticism, SAA issued a statement encouraging “the rigorous interrogation of diverse views.” SAA President Deborah Nichols later told Science the organization's board rejects the viewpoint of Weiss and her co-author and supports NAGPRA. ### Policy The relatively modest research investments outlined in Canada's new federal budget could make it difficult for the nation to recruit and retain scientific talent, Canadian science advocates fear. The multiyear spending plan, announced on 19 April, includes CA$2.2 billion in mostly new funding for life sciences, with much of the money aimed at boosting biomedical applications and vaccine development. (Canada will continue to provide other spending for research this year under multiyear budgets approved in 2018 and 2019.) But analysts worry the increases are too modest compared with much larger ones proposed for the United States by President Joe Biden, and that some Canadian scientists will look for work south of the border. Under Canada's budget, three main research councils will share CA$250 million for a new joint biomedical research program, and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research will get an additional CA$250 million to fund clinical trials. Universities and research hospitals will get CA$500 million for infrastructure such as equipment and buildings. Three programs—an existing artificial intelligence program and two new ones in genomics and quantum science—will each receive CA$400 million in new funding. ### Publishing Egypt, Iran, Turkey, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa have boosted their share of scholarly articles in international journals and citations to those papers during the past 4 decades, the Clarivate analytics firm said this month. From 1981 to 2019, the region quadrupled its share of research articles and reviews to 8%; among regions and large countries, only China grew by more. Fifteen of the region's 19 countries had a citation score in 2019 higher than the world average, when adjusted for differences across disciplines; in 2000, almost all had scores well below average. ### Reckoning with climate blues Sustainability scientist Kimberly Nicholas of Lund University found herself struggling with feelings of grief as research by her and others revealed how much climate change will harm agriculture, ecosystems, and human communities. And she discovered she is not alone. In her new book, Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World , she offers insight into how people and institutions can respond to those feelings and the climate challenge. (A longer version of this interview is at .) > Q: How does your experience with grief inform your thinking about climate change? > A: Things are changing beyond recognition right now from climate change. To me, grieving is an important part of the process of acknowledging that. It does draw from my experience of losing a dear friend to cancer, who died at 37. It was a kind of wake-up call [that prompted me] to think about my core values and what matters. But it shouldn't take a terminal diagnosis for life on Earth to wake us up to the urgency of working for climate stability. > Q: Students come to you distraught about harm to ecosystems they hope to study. What do you tell them? > A: The main thing is not to shy away from those conversations. It's not really helpful to deny the reality or not equip them with the tools to face that reality. You have to acknowledge that they're running into a house that is on fire. > Q: You argue for a shift from what you call the “exploitation mindset.” What's an example? > A: A big wake-up moment for me came at a climate science conference. Pretty much everyone there, including me, had flown in. The presentations were a litany of depressing things happening because of climate change. I felt like I was at this conference of doctors puffing on cigarettes, but telling our patients to quit smoking! I realized we really have an obligation to model the change that we want to see. So, I have pretty much stopped flying for work. It hasn't meant I can't be a productive researcher.

Mechanical engineers develop new high-performance artificial muscle technology


The quest for new and better actuation technologies and'soft' robotics is often based on principles of biomimetics, in which machine components are designed to mimic the movement of human muscles -- and ideally, to outperform them. Despite the performance of actuators like electric motors and hydraulic pistons, their rigid form limits how they can be deployed. As robots transition to more biological forms and as people ask for more biomimetic prostheses, actuators need to evolve. Associate professor (and alum) Michael Shafer and professor Heidi Feigenbaum of Northern Arizona University's Department of Mechanical Engineering, along with graduate student researcher Diego Higueras-Ruiz, published a paper in Science Robotics presenting a new, high-performance artificial muscle technology they developed in NAU's Dynamic Active Systems Laboratory. The paper, titled "Cavatappi artificial muscles from drawing, twisting, and coiling polymer tubes," details how the new technology enables more human-like motion due to its flexibility and adaptability, but outperforms human skeletal muscle in several metrics.

Tesla's Autopilot can 'easily' be used to drive without anyone behind wheel, Consumer Reports warns

USATODAY - Tech Top Stories

Tesla's Autopilot system can "easily" be used to drive the automaker's vehicles without anyone behind the wheel, Consumer Reports said in a new demonstration. The magazine conducted the study on a test track after a widely publicized Tesla Model S crash in Texas on Saturday when two people were killed in a wreck that sparked an hours-long blaze. Local authorities said it appeared no one was in the driver's seat. The National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have opened investigations into the incident. Tesla's Autopilot system enables automatic steering, accelerating and braking on roads with lanes, but it does not work in all situations.

NASA shares stunning photos of its Lunar Gateway space station

Daily Mail - Science & tech

NASA has shared a number of images showing what its upcoming Lunar Gateway space station will look like when it launches for the moon in 2024. The agency said the orbiting laboratory would provide astronauts with a'home away from home' during trips to the moon, and a staging post for lunar landings. The orbiting lab will have a four person capacity and will see NASA work with some existing International Space Station partners including Europe, Japan and Canada. Large parts of the station will be built by commercial partners and will have a docking port for the SpaceX Starship lunar lander that will ferry astronauts between the orbiting base and the surface of the moon. NASA also confirmed that the platform will help address one of the biggest concerns for space travel beyond Earth's orbit by measuring radiation levels.

Algorithmic Nudges Don't Have to Be Unethical


Companies are increasingly using algorithms to manage and control individuals not by force, but rather by nudging them into desirable behavior -- in other words, learning from their personalized data and altering their choices in some subtle way. Since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal in 2017, for example, it is widely known that the flood of targeted advertising and highly personalized content on Facebook may not only nudge users into buying more products, but also to coax and manipulate them into voting for particular political parties. University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass Sunstein popularized the term "nudge" in 2008, but due to recent advances in AI and machine learning, algorithmic nudging is much more powerful than its non-algorithmic counterpart. With so much data about workers' behavioral patterns at their fingertips, companies can now develop personalized strategies for changing individuals' decisions and behaviors at large scale. These algorithms can be adjusted in real-time, making the approach even more effective.

Europe ramps up global race to regulate artificial intelligence


Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology. Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk." In the U.S., the federal government has yet to pass legislation specifically addressing AI, though some local governments have enacted their own rules, especially around facial recognition. Acting FTC chairwoman Rebecca Slaughter told Axios: "I am pleased that the European Commission shares the FTC's concerns about the risks posed by artificial intelligence... I look forward to reviewing the EC's proposal as we learn from each other in pursuit of transparency, fairness, and accountability in algorithmic decision making."

Oscars Spotlight: The 2021 Nominees for Best Picture

The New Yorker

In 1969, as revolutionary fires burned, the Academy gave its Best Picture award to "Oliver!" Hollywood, still ruled by the crumbling studio system, was almost willfully blind to the nineteen-sixties; even breakthrough films such as "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Rosemary's Baby" were left off the Best Picture list, which included representatives of such superannuated genres as the big-budget musical ("Funny Girl") and the medieval costume drama ("The Lion in Winter"). Under the newly devised rating system, "Oliver!" became the first G-rated film to win Best Picture, and it remains the last. By the next year, movies like "Midnight Cowboy" and "Easy Rider" finally injected the ceremony with a dose of sixties counterculture--but the decade was over. Two of this year's eight Best Picture nominees are set largely in 1969, and they show what Hollywood wouldn't bring itself to see back then. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" dramatizes the politicized court proceedings against activists who, the year before, protested the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.