This Week’s Awesome Stories from Around the Web (Through Jan 9)

ROBOTICS: When Should a Robot Say No to Its Human Owner?
Adam Elkus | Slate
“Telling a robot to only obey wise choices from a human owner merely shifts the question to defining what is “unwise” in the first place and how a robot would be able to distinguish between the two. It’s very easy to see how robots deliberating about the consequences of their own actions could lead to them becoming robotic Hamlets paralyzed by indecision.”

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The End of Lawyers? Not So Fast
John Markoff | New York Times
“Despite the fears of some of a ‘jobs-pocalypse,’ the economy has stubbornly refused to cooperate with the doomsayers. Last month, there were 149 million people employed in the United States, the most in history. And in recent months a growing array of new studies have indicated that the relationship between technological advances and job displacement is more complex and nuanced than pessimists have suggested.”

INTERNET OF THINGS: Why Every Gadget You Own Suddenly Wants To Talk To You
Mark Wilson | Co.Design
“Alexa answers to all of Wall Street, because Amazon is a publicly traded company that needs to ship you things to live. And so Alexa’s not going to hunt around to find you the best deal on shampoo, much like Google Maps will never refer you to Lyft (unless an anti-trust suit catches up with it).”

TRANSPORTATION: Welcome to the Metastructure: The New Internet of Transportation
Adam Rogers | WIRED
“What all these services and partnerships are building isn’t infrastructure. Let’s call it metastructure. It’s an evolving map of spacetime that robot cars and buses and trolleys and bikes live in, constantly updated, always available…If it works, everything changes: fewer cars on the road, never getting into accidents, never needing a parking space. You’ll ride in a car, but you’ll never own one.”

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY: DNA Manufacturing Enters the Age of Mass Production
Eliza Strickland | IEEE Spectrum
“‘So you can make and test a whole bunch more DNA—but that’s not the hard part,’ he argues. ‘Going from test tube to bench scale to commercial scale, that’s 90 percent of cost.’”

EDUCATION: There’s a good reason Americans are horrible at science
Danielle Teller | Quartz
“It’s not possible for everyone—or anyone—to be sufficiently well trained in science to analyze data from multiple fields and come up with sound, independent interpretations….As a starting point, we could teach our children that the theories and technologies that have been tested the most times, by the largest number of independent observers, over the greatest number of years, are the most likely to be reliable.”

CULTURE: Techno-skeptics’ objection growing louder
Joel Achenbach | Washington Post
“We’re in a new Machine Age. Machine intelligence and digital social networks are now embedded in the basic infrastructure of the developed world…But there’s this shadow narrative being written at the same time. It’s a passionate, if still remarkably disorganized, resistance to the digital establishment.”

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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