What We’re Reading This Week Across the Web (Through Nov 1, 2014)

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[intro]We increasingly live in an ethically murky world where the very technologies that are empowering us to achieve greater and greater milestones are also creating constraints that challenge how we define ourselves as humans. [/intro]

The resulting struggle often forces us to redefine ourselves on the fly…something that’s much easier said than done.

This week’s batch of stories are an interesting spread for those wrestling with the implications of new technologies. For all the ruminating we can do on these issues, exactly where we land is largely unknown. The truth is we either learn to embrace the mystery of the future or live in a state of escalating anxiety.

Enjoy this week’s stories!

ROBOTS: MIT Visualizes What Robots Are Thinking
Mark Wilson | Co.Design
“A world in which drones go about their day, completely pokerfaced and detached from humanity, is a world that’s no longer designed for the human experience. It’s streamlined for robots.”

PRIVACY: Taking back privacy in the post-Snowden cloud
Sean Gallagher | Ars Technica
“Cloud computing is a bit like a bus station locker—you may have the key, but that doesn’t mean someone else can’t pop it open and see what’s inside. That’s why so many financial service companies, healthcare providers, and government agencies would rather build their own versions of what Amazon offers…Some are more apt to pop that locker open for themselves or for inquiring governments. Remember, we chose to put data in the cloud.”

BRAIN: In the Future Your Therapy and Education Will Be Tailored to Your Brain
Kathleen Gates | Scientific American
“We built a model of each child’s brain by measuring how much each region in his or her fronto-parietal network works in concert with the other ones….We found three types of functional brain patterns associated with ADHD diagnoses and two associated with typical brain development. This diversity indicates that more than one biological mechanism exists for ADHD and that at least two patterns of functional connectivity in the front-parietal network may be found in typically developing children.”

ETHICS: RoboLaw: Why and how to regulate robotics
Andrea Bertolini | Robohub
“Even a robot that can perform complex tasks without human supervision and take decisions towards that end may still not be deemed an agent in a philosophical sense, let alone a legal one. The robot is still an object, a product, a device, not bearing rights but meant to be used. What would justify a shift on a purely ontological basis (thus forcing us to consider the robot as a being provided with rights and duties) is what Gutman, Rathgeber and Syed call ‘strong autonomy’ – namely the ability to decide for one’s self and set one’s own goals. However, at present this belongs to the realm of science fiction, and it can be argued that this is not the direction we desire to take with robots in any case: we want robots to ease our lives, and therefore to do what we decide they should be doing. Should they be free to decide if, how and when to perform what we ask according to their own taste and preferences, then the purpose of developing robotic technologies would be defeated.”

LONGEVITY: Preoccupied With Life
Alvin Powell | Harvard Gazette
“What he’s learned over 200 interviews conducted across four years, Gawande said, has led him to envision his own final days and have a conversation with his wife about what matters to him — the ability to communicate with others. ‘It has sharpened it a great deal,’ Gawande said. ‘Me being able to communicate and connect with others [is important]. [If I’m a] brain in a jar, and can interact and communicate with people, keep me going. If not, let me go.'”

CULTURE: World of Warcraft, Hearthstone could dominate retirement home gaming
Charlie Hall | Polygon
“‘Players between 18 and 30 account for 50 percent of the US MMO audience,’ SuperData writes. ‘These players represent the largest age group, many of which started playing MMOs as children, during the segment’s early years, and have continued into their adulthood. This generation is expected to expand the older markets as they age since they are the first generation to have grown up with MMOs.'”

GRAND CHALLENGES: The Big Future: What is the future of food?
Russell Brandom | The Verge
“How we produce food is going to have to change.”

[Image credit: darkday/Flickr]

I've been writing for Singularity Hub since 2011 and have been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. My interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but I'll always be a chemist at heart.

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