ROBOTICS: Rise of the Robotic Workforce
Melody Guan | Harvard Political Review
“Human employability optimists also tend to view robotics as powerful but fundamentally inadequate tools that aid rather than replace humans. ‘Humans are better than robots at abstraction, generalization, and creative thinking’ and robots can only solve structured problems in familiar environments.”

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: What human emotions do we really want of artificial intelligence?
David Lovell | The Conversation
“Empathy – the ability to understand and share feelings of another – was top of the list of desirable human qualities that day, perhaps because it goes beyond mere recognition (‘I see you are angry’) and demands a response that demonstrates an appreciation of emotional impact. Hence, I propose the Frampton Test, after the critical question posed by rock legend Peter Frampton in the 1973 song ‘Do you feel like we do?'”

COMPUTING: You’d never know it wasn’t Bach (or even human)
Eric Gershon and Jim Shelton | Yale News
“In two separate tests, each involving more than 100 human subjects of varied musical experience, participants listened to 40 short musical phrases, some written by humans, others by computer programs, including Quick’s, which she calls Kulitta. The subjects were asked to rate the musical phrases on a seven-point scale ranging from ‘absolutely human’ to ‘absolutely computer.’ In both tests, Kulitta’s compositions rated, on average, on the human side of the scale.”

VR: Virtual Reality: The time has come
Jack Schofield | PC Authority
“Did the first wave of VR arrive before its time? Yes. Is now the time? Maybe…But there are two important differences this time. The first is that we have almost ubiquitous high-speed communications of the sort that didn’t exist in the dial-up world of the 1990s. Today, we can stream VR data from almost anywhere in the world, rather than getting it on a games cartridge or a CD-ROM. Real-time conferencing, 3D commerce and virtual tourism are real possibilities, even if we no longer want to set up virtual homesteads in Second Life. The second major difference is that, thanks to more than 30 years of Moore’s law, we now have so much computer power that even a mobile phone can create a good VR experience.”

NEUROSCIENCE: Is There Awareness Behind Vegetative States?
Julie Sedivy | Nautilus
“The trick with using brain scans to infer conscious awareness is that it’s not enough to find that the brain activity of unresponsive patients is similar to that of healthy, awake brains. As it turns out, much of the mental activity of healthy, awake people—even activity that we think of as highly intelligent—runs on automatic pilot, entirely bypassing conscious awareness. This makes it very easy to assume consciousness where there is none, whether in vegetative patients or, for that matter, in ourselves.”

BIG DATA: The Key Ingredient in Stop-and-Frisk Reform: Open Data
Daniel Denvir | CityLab
“By no means did making data public accomplish criminal justice reform on its own. Rather, data stoked public outrage, and that outrage fed an appetite for more data and analysis—and so on, and on—prompting criticism from The New York Times and then-NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and, ultimately, official moves to rein in the practice.”

KNOWLEDGE: When are you better off not knowing the truth?
Jess Whittlestone | Aeon
“Every day, we’re forced to make decisions about how much we want to know. Sometimes we opt to remain ignorant: by choosing not to learn about the health risks we might face later in life, by putting off finding out how our partner really feels about our relationship, or by avoiding feedback on how well we’re performing at work. When is it worth facing these painful truths, and when are we genuinely better off not knowing?”


DISASTERS are the Global Grand Challenge for the Month of August

PREPARATION: No One Is Ready for the Next Katrina
Nick Stockton | WIRED
“You’ll be quick to see solutions to all this tend to fall into two categories. One is to spend a bunch of money retrofitting, rebuilding, and renewing the country’s critical flood infrastructure. Two is to get fewer people to live near the coasts and in flood plains. You don’t need to be a politician to understand why those strategies don’t figure into a lot of stump speeches. The reality is these changes will be made incrementally.”

RELIEF: This Disaster-Relief Structure Packs Flat And Assembles In An Hour
Diana Budds | Fast Company
“‘Temporary shelters are usually complex structures that require space and time to build,’ Hakan Gürsu, founder of Designnobis, says. ‘What we intend with Tentative is to provide a smart, compact shelter that is flat pack, easy to transport, and practical to build.'”

THREAT: The Drought Isn’t Just a California Problem
Julia Lurie | Mother Jones
“California’s been getting a lot of attention for the drought, but it’s not alone in its lack of rain: This year is on track to be the driest on record for several western states. ”

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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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