This Week’s Awesome Stories from Around the Web (Through Aug 8)

ROBOTICS: What you need to know about artificial intelligence, and the imminent robot future
Luke Westaway | CNET
“Futurist Ray Kurzweil predicted in a 2005 book that a model of human intelligence would be achieved as soon as the mid 2020s. What appears to be the case now, however, is that the complexity of our own minds, the key that gives rise to consciousness, is a lot more, well, complicated than we imagined.”

AI: Artificial Intelligence Is Already Weirdly Inhuman
David Berreby | Nautilus
“Neural nets sometimes make mistakes, which people can understand…But some hard problems make neural nets respond in ways that aren’t understandable. Neural nets execute algorithms—a set of instructions for completing a task. Algorithms, of course, are written by human beings. Yet neural nets sometimes come out with answers that are downright weird: not right, but also not wrong in a way that people can grasp. Instead, the answers sound like something an extraterrestrial might come up with.”

VIRTUAL REALITY: The Uncanny Valley of Branded Virtual Reality
Kyle Chayka | Motherboard
“These environments are all intricately detailed and impressive, but they’re also strange and corporate in their slickness…Branding becomes impossible to escape without taking the helmet off. No wonder business is booming—these projects certainly aren’t done for the good of consumers, who might experience them at a convention or pop-up presentation but remain unlikely to view them at home. Brands simply want to propel a simple message: that they understand the future.”

EDUCATION: Lessons from the Digital Classroom
Nanette Byrnes  | Technology Review
“While only a small percentage of students complete any given MOOC, their data is helping educators develop new teaching models that promise to be more effective—such as programs that combine online instruction with one-on-one coaching or support, regular quizzes, and other check-ins on progress.”

SCIENCE FICTION: How Fiction Can Reveal the Horrors of Future Wars
P.W. Singer and August Cole | WIRED
“Fiction can aid in truth telling by asking tough questions that might otherwise be too complex, too contrarian, or too uncomfortable to posit directly….what would the 21st century version of full-out, great power, state-on-state warfare look like?”

FUTURE OF CITIES: Can we design the ideal city or must it evolve organically?
Jared Keller | Aeon
“But while sci-fi writers and futurists imagined the triumphant metropolises of the not-so-distant future, Soleri set off to the Arizona desert to actually build one. Soleri wanted to answer a simple question: is it possible to design a utopia? ”

DISASTERS are the Global Grand Challenge for the Month of August

DETECTION: How worried should we be about the earthquake heading for the Pacific Northwest?
Danielle Wiener-Bronner | Fusion
“Schulz presents us with a horrifying near-future: An unstoppable disaster will ravage the Pacific Northwest, and all we can do is run or wait. But not much attention was paid to the U.S. Geological Survey’s announcement, last week, that it would grant $4 million to four West Coast universities to support research into early earthquake warning (EEW) systems in the region, plus an additional $1 million for new EEW sensors.”

RELIEF: A Long Road Home
Gillian B. White | CityLab
“Hurricane Katrina is an illuminating example…A decade later, some still are unable to return home. Some haven’t returned by choice, since they’ve already made new homes elsewhere. But there are also many who would prefer to go back, if they could.One thing stopping them is that moving, rebuilding, and elevating homes in order to comply with new post-Katrina safety standards costs money that many poorer residents simply don’t have.”

PREVENTION: Four Technologies That Could Let Humans Survive Environmental Disaster
Zoltan Istvan | Gizmodo
“The strange truth is that in the very near future we may not need clean water or stable weather to sustain advances in our species. We may not need oceans or forests to feed us, or an ozone layer to help us avoid cancer. We may not even need the sun to shine bright, if we can perfect other forms of power. Existential risk can be overcome by adapting beyond the fragility of human biology.”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

David J. Hill
David J. Hill
David started writing for Singularity Hub in 2011 and served as editor-in-chief of the site from 2014 to 2017 and SU vice president of faculty, content, and curriculum from 2017 to 2019. His interests cover digital education, publishing, and media, but he'll always be a chemist at heart.
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