A “robot revolution” will transform the global economy over the next 20 years, cutting the costs of doing business but exacerbating social inequality, as machines take over everything from caring for the elderly to flipping burgers, according to a new study.
As well as robots performing manual jobs, such as hoovering the living room or assembling machine parts, the development of artificial intelligence means computers are increasingly able to “think”, performing analytical tasks once seen as requiring human judgment.
Last month the World Bank published new global poverty estimates. They confirm that the last 25 years represent an auspicious moment in the annals of human progress. A target to cut the rate of extreme poverty in half over this period was achieved seven years ahead of schedule. Preliminary final accounts show a reduction of over 70 percent. A new goal to finish the job by eradicating extreme poverty over the next 15 years has now been endorsed by the UN. To understand how this might be achieved, we must first recognize that the lives of the poor are fundamentally changing: We’re witnessing the end of marginalization thanks to the connections made possible by digital networks.
Designer and architect Neri Oxman is leading the search for ways in which digital fabrication technologies can interact with the biological world. Working at the intersection of computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering and synthetic biology, her lab is pioneering a new age of symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, our products and even our buildings.
Imagine the hottest day you've ever experienced. Now imagine it's six, 10 or 12 degrees hotter. According to climate researcher Alice Bows-Larkin, that's the type of future in store for us if we don't significantly cut our greenhouse gas emissions now. She suggests that it's time we do things differently—a whole system change, in fact—and seriously consider trading economic growth for climate stability.
A UK college has started teaching students the Danish concept of hygge - said to make homes nicer and people happier. But what exactly is it and is it exportable?
Sitting by the fire on a cold night, wearing a woolly jumper, while drinking mulled wine and stroking a dog - probably surrounded by candles. That's definitely "hygge".
Eating home-made cinnamon pastries. Watching TV under a duvet. Tea served in a china set. Family get-togethers at Christmas. They're all hygge too.
The Danish word, pronounced "hoo-ga", is usually translated into English as "cosiness". But it's much more than that, say its aficionados - an entire attitude to life that helps Denmark to vie with Switzerland and Iceland to be the world's happiest country.
Morley College, in central London, is teaching students how to achieve hygge as part of its Danish language course. "We have long, cold winters in Denmark," says lecturer Susanne Nilsson. "That influences things. Hygge doesn't have to be a winter-only thing, but the weather isn't that good for much of the year."
With as little as four sunshine hours a day in the depths of winter, and average temperatures hovering around 0C, people spend more time indoors as a result, says Nilsson, meaning there's greater focus on home entertaining.
"Hygge could be families and friends getting together for a meal, with the lighting dimmed, or it could be time spent on your own reading a good book," she says. "It works best when there's not too large an empty space around the person or people." The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life's worries.
The recent growth in Scandinavian-themed restaurants, cafes and bars in the UK is helping to export hygge, she adds, with their intimate settings, lack of uniformity in decor and concentration on comforting food. Most customers won't have heard of the term, but they might get a sense of it.
In the US, the wallpaper and fabric firm Hygge West explicitly aims to channel the concept through its cheery designs, as does a Los Angeles bakery, called Hygge, which sells traditional Danish pastries and treats.
One of the ultimate aims of artificial intelligence is to create machines we can chat to.
A computer program that can be trusted with mundane tasks - booking our holiday, reminding us of dentist appointments and offering useful advice about where to eat - but also one that can discuss the weather and answer offbeat questions.
Alan Turing, one of the first computer scientists to think about artificial intelligence, devised a test to judge whether a machine was "thinking".
He suggested that if, after a typewritten conversation, a human was fooled into believing they had talked to another person rather than a computer program, the AI would be judged to have passed.
These days we chat to machines on a regular basis via our smart devices.
Whether it be Siri, Google Now or Cortana, most of us have a chatbot in our pockets.
September 18, 2015 | Wallach describes the dangers of technology The Stute His reasons included the fact that humanity's reliance on complex systems is increasing, the pace for discovery and innovation is too rapid, and that there are a plethora of...
Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).
Global temperatures are set to rise more than one degree above pre-industrial levels according to the UK's Met Office.
Figures from January to September this year are already 1.02C above the average between 1850 and 1900.
If temperatures remain as predicted, 2015 will be the first year to breach this key threshold.
The world would then be half way towards 2C, the gateway to dangerous warming.
The new data is certain to add urgency to political negotiations in Paris later this month aimed at securing a new global climate treaty. Difficult to measure
For researchers, confusion about the true level of temperatures in the 1750s, when the industrial revolution began and fossil fuels became widely used, means that an accurate assessment of the amount the world has warmed since then is very difficult.
To get over this problem, the Met Office use an average of the temperatures recorded between 1850 and 1900, which they argue makes their analysis more accurate.
Their latest temperature information comes from a dataset jointly run by the Met Office and the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
The HadCRUT database showed that in the first nine months of this year, the global mean temperature had just gone above 1C, hitting 1.02 with a error factor of plus or minus 0.11C.
Scientists say that the one degree mark will be broken in 2015 because of a combination of carbon emissions and the impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon.
"We have seen a strong El Nino develop in the Tropical Pacific this year and that will have had some impact on this year's global temperature," said Stephen Belcher, director of the Met Office Hadley Centre.
A baby girl with aggressive leukaemia has become the first in the world to be treated with designer immune cells that were genetically engineered to wipe out her cancer.
The one-year-old, Layla Richards, was given months to live after conventional treatments failed to eradicate the disease, but she is now cancer free and doing well, a response one doctor described as “almost a miracle”.
Animals are the main victims of history, and the treatment of domesticated animals in industrial farms is perhaps the worst crime in history. The march of human progress is strewn with dead animals. Even tens of thousands of years ago, our stone age ancestors were already responsible for a series of ecological disasters. When the first humans reached Australia about 45,000 years ago, they quickly drove to extinction 90% of its large animals. This was the first significant impact that Homo sapiens had on the planet’s ecosystem. It was not the last.
About 15,000 years ago, humans colonised America, wiping out in the process about 75% of its large mammals. Numerous other species disappeared from Africa, from Eurasia and from the myriad islands around their coasts. The archaeological record of country after country tells the same sad story. The tragedy opens with a scene showing a rich and varied population of large animals, without any trace of Homo sapiens. In scene two, humans appear, evidenced by a fossilised bone, a spear point, or perhaps a campfire. Scene three quickly follows, in which men and women occupy centre-stage and most large animals, along with many smaller ones, have gone. Altogether, sapiens drove to extinction about 50% of all the large terrestrial mammals of the planet before they planted the first wheat field, shaped the first metal tool, wrote the first text or struck the first coin.
The brain’s wiring patterns can shed light on a person’s positive and negative traits, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience. The finding, published on September 28, is the first from the Human Connectome Project (HCP), an international effort to map active connections between neurons in different parts of the brain.
The HCP, which launched in 2010 at a cost of US$40 million, seeks to scan the brain networks, or connectomes, of 1,200 adults. Among its goals is to chart the networks that are active when the brain is idle; these are thought to keep the different parts of the brain connected in case they need to perform a task.
In April, a branch of the project led by one of the HCP's co-chairs, biomedical engineer Stephen Smith at the University of Oxford, UK, released a database of resting-state connectomes from about 460 people between 22 and 35 years old. Each brain scan is supplemented by information on approximately 280 traits, such as the person's age, whether they have a history of drug use, their socioeconomic status and personality traits, and their performance on various intelligence tests.
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