Science, Technology and Innovation

Close up: the government’s facial recognition plan could reveal more than just your identity

A Bill to set up the federal government’s biometric identity system is currently going through Parliament. Jake Goldenfein The Conversation But there are concerns over just how much information the system would be allowed to gather, and how that might be used to establish more than just the identity of a person. Strongly based on the FBI model in the United States, the Identity Matching Services Bill and its Explanatory Memoranda prescribe what data can be collected, shared and processed, ... Read More »

How landline phones made us happy and connected

Smartphones and the internet have revolutionised society, commerce, and politics, reshaping how we work and play, and how our brains are wired. Barbara Keys The Conversation They have even revolutionised how revolutions are made. For enthusiasts, these technologies enhance freedom and democratise the flow of information, putting more power in the hands of people to generate political change. In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, high school students have used social media to provoke a public debate about guns in the ... Read More »

Russia ready to be cut off from internet with its own web

If Western sanctions go as far as excluding Russia from the world wide web, the country’s own internet is ready, according to the Russian presidential aide on the internet, German Klimenko. RT “Technically, we are ready for anything now,” he told NTV news channel. However, the shutdown will not be painless, Klimenko added. “Failures always occur when moving from one technology to another. Someone will face connection troubles. Probably, it will be found out that someone kept data abroad, although there ... Read More »

Should you send a text or email? Here’s some advice from Aristotle

Suppose you want to get in touch with a friend. Once, your options for doing so might have been sparse: pick up the phone or write a letter. Alexis Elder The Conversation But these days, you have to decide: Should you call or text, use Snapchat, or reach out on Twitter, Messenger or Skype? Other considerations, whether it’s an old friend or new acquaintance, or whether you’re asking a favor or checking in, as well as your own conversational tendencies ... Read More »

Microsoft president Smith: World must ‘wake up’ to benefits and perils of artificial intelligence

Citing the enormous power of artificial intelligence to benefit but also disrupt society, Microsoft President Brad Smith on Thursday, March 1, called for standards of accountability and a “Hippocratic oath” among technologists to do no harm with the emerging tools. Steven Schultz Princeton University “Will we ensure that machines remain accountable to people? Will we ensure that the people who design these machines remain accountable to other people?” asked Smith, a Princeton University alumnus and trustee, speaking to a packed audience ... Read More »

Fall of Troy: the legend and the facts

The legendary ancient city of Troy is very much in the limelight this year: a big budget co-production between the BBC and Netflix: Troy, Fall of a City, recently launched, while Turkey designated 2018 the “Year of Troy” and plans a year of celebration, including the opening of a new museum on the presumed site. Mariacarmela Montesanto The Conversation So what do we know about the city, ruins of which have been painstakingly excavated over the past 150 years? The ... Read More »

From bacteria to Bach, the origins of culture

Antonio Damasio, director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, is one of the… Nathan Gardels The Washington Post WorldPost: I first heard your name when the cellist YoYo Ma told me about your book “Descartes’ Error,” which he said helped answer some key questions he had about how virtuosity and creativity come about in music — not by reason alone but through the… Antonio Damasio: When I think of “Descartes’ Error” today, almost 25 years ... Read More »

Nationalism vs. globalism: the new political divide

How do we make sense of today’s political divisions? In a wide-ranging conversation full of insight, historian Yuval Harari places our current turmoil in a broader context, against the ongoing disruption of our technology, climate, media — even our notion of what humanity is for. Nationalism vs. globalism: the new political divide ( Video ) This is the first of a series of TED Dialogues, seeking a thoughtful response to escalating political divisiveness. Make time (just over an hour) for ... Read More »

German court backs city bans on diesel cars

A top German court ruled on Feb. 27 in favor of allowing major cities to ban the most heavily polluting diesel cars, a move set to hit the value of 12 million vehicles in Europe’s largest car market and probably force carmakers to pay for costly modifications. LEIPZIG – Reuters Hurriyet There has been a global backlash against diesel-engine cars since Volkswagen admitted in 2015 to cheating U.S. exhaust tests, meant to limit emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxide ... Read More »

Five reasons why being kind makes you feel good – according to science

Everybody can appreciate acts of kindness. But when it comes to explaining why we do them, people often take one of two extreme positions. Jo Cutler Robin Banerjee The Conversation Some think kindness is something completely selfless that we do out of love and care, while others believe it is just a tool that we cunningly use to become more popular and reap the… But research shows that being kind to others can actually make us genuinely happy in a ... Read More »

Tech vs. Democracy

In an age when most people get their news from social media, mafia states have had little trouble censoring social-media content that their leaders deem harmful to their interests. Guy Verhofstadt Project Syndicate But for liberal democracies, regulating social media is not so straightforward, because governments must strike a balance between competing principles. BRUSSELS – Instagram, a photo-sharing platform owned by Facebook, recently caved in to a demand by the Russian government that it remove posts by opposition leader Alexey ... Read More »

Thamkrabok Monastery has a reputation for its cold-turkey detox

When the morning mist clears from Thamkrabok Monastery, it reveals granite cliffs looming over a sprawling complex of temples and mammoth Buddha statues. By Arthur Nazaryan GlobalPost Sometimes around noon, you can find a group of foreigners sitting on a wooden porch overlooking a pond, talking with monks (some of them also foreign) about destiny, self-reliance and karma. One could mistake this place for a spiritual retreat, but in fact, hardly anyone comes here as a tourist. Most of the people ... Read More »

Autism genes abound in DNA regions involved in learning

The same processes that enable the brain to store new memories may also control many autism genes, a new study suggests1. BY JESSICA WRIGHT   Spectrum Candidate genes for autism are more than three times as prevalent in the genetic regions that become active after mice learn a new task as would be expected by chance, the researchers found. This connection between learning, memory and autism could explain why many children with autism have intellectual disability. “We are trying to understand the ... Read More »

Mark Cuban says studying philosophy may soon be worth more than computer science—here’s why

According to billionaire technology entrepreneur Mark Cuban, earning a college degree in computer science might not be the safe investment you think it is. Ali Montag CNBC Today, students who study computer science have a high likelihood of scoring a lucrative job: Glassdoor determined computer science and engineering to be the number one highest-paying major to study in 2017. Meanwhile, students of liberal arts subjects often make far less. But Cuban, also an investor on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” expects that to change. “I’m going to ... Read More »

How lasers and robo-feeders are transforming fish farming

Fish farming is big business – the industry now produces about 100 million tonnes a year – and with salmon prices soaring, producers are turning to lasers, automation and artificial intelligence to boost production and cut costs. By Chris Baraniuk, Technology of Business reporter BBC How do you know if farmed salmon have had enough to eat? Well, according to Lingalaks fish farms in Norway, which produce nearly three million salmon each year, the fish make less noise once the feeding ... Read More »

Who Owns the Elgin Marbles?

“They were created in a short time for all time. Each one of them, in its beauty, was even then and at once antique, but in the freshness of its vigor it is, even to the present day, recent and newly wrought.” Patricia Vigderman The New York Times Thus Plutarch described the buildings on the Acropolis as a showcase of Periclean Athens. Although he was writing half a millennium after the Parthenon was built, he touched on the essence of ... Read More »