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Mar 18, 2016

New quantum computer device takes advantage of a loophole in causality

Posted by in categories: computing, information science, mobile phones, quantum physics

Researchers in Finland have figured out a way to reliably make quantum computers — technology that’s tipped to revolutionise computing in the coming years — even more powerful. And all they had to do was throw common sense out the window.

You’re almost certainly reading this article on a classical computer — which includes all phones, laptops, and tablets — meaning that your computer can only ever do one thing at a time. It reads one bit, then the next bit, then the next bit, and so on. The reading is lightning fast and combines millions or billions or trillions of bits to give you what you want, but the bits are always read and used in order.

So if your computer searches for the solution to a problem, it tries one answer (a particular batch of ones and zeros), checks how far the result is from the goal, tries another answer (a different batch), and repeats. For complicated problems, that process can take an incredibly long time. Sometimes, that’s good. Very clever multiplication secures your bank account, and faster or more efficient equation-solvers put that in jeopardy.

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Mar 18, 2016

Quantum computer means dark at the end of the tunnel for RSA encryption

Posted by in categories: computing, electronics, encryption, quantum physics

A quantum computer has been built that can find prime factors, potentially signalling the beginning of the end for cryptography that relies on the multiplication of large prime numbers, such as RSA encryption.

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Mar 18, 2016

Interview with Pavel Exner ahead of his 70th birthday

Posted by in categories: education, physics

Going back to the start, how did you come to studying Theoretical Physics?

As with most people my path was determined by a series of choices involving random factors. I liked mathematics and physics at school, and did well in the olympiads, but I liked also literature, history, etc. At the age of fourteen I choose a technical-type high school oriented at nuclear disciplines, as popular then as they are despised by many these days, probably because it was one of the most difficult and challenging ones.

The way from there to the Technical University was straightforward. Since I have the need to understand things from the first principles, I drifted gradually towards theoretical physics and it was only natural that in the middle of my studies, corresponding roughly to the bachelor degree nowadays, I ended up at the Theoretical Physics Department of the Charles University, where I subsequently graduated.

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Mar 18, 2016

Reading minds, sharing control

Posted by in categories: neuroscience, robotics/AI

BMIs and other brainy stuff.

When it comes to moving a robot arm with your thoughts, sometimes it is better not to have complete control of your actions. This blog explains more.

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Mar 18, 2016

Galactic collisions doom entire star systems to black-hole death

Posted by in category: cosmology

Star-gobbling black holes tend to inhabit galaxies that have recently collided, suggesting that cosmic pile-ups send whole systems flying.

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Mar 18, 2016

An AI with 30 Years’ Worth of Knowledge Finally Goes to Work

Posted by in category: robotics/AI

An effort to encode the world’s knowledge in a huge database has sometimes seemed impractical, but those behind the technology say it is finally ready.

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Mar 18, 2016

You can now 3D print the world’s lightest material – graphene aerogel

Posted by in categories: 3D printing, materials


It’s 7.5 times lighter than air, and a cubic metre of the stuff weighs just 160 grams. It’s 12 percent lighter than the second lightest material in the world – aerographite – and you can balance a few cubic centimetres of the stuff on a dandelion head. Water is about 1,000 times as dense.

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Mar 18, 2016

Carl’s Jr CEO wants to replace all human workers with robots

Posted by in categories: food, health, robotics/AI

Minimum wage for a robot? $0/hour. Maximum wage? $0/hour.

(From Fox)

Eatsa, the mostly automated healthy, fast food bowl shop based in San Francisco, has inspired the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s to rethink the traditional workforce—by replacing all humans with robots.

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Mar 18, 2016

U.S. Army Begins Testing Tech to Enable Self-Driving Convoys This Summer

Posted by in categories: military, robotics/AI, transportation

Beginning in June, the Army will road-test communications technology that could lead the way to autonomous big-rig convoys.

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Mar 18, 2016

Who’s Afraid of Existential Risk? Or, Why It’s Time to Bring the Cold War out of the Cold

Posted by in categories: defense, disruptive technology, economics, existential risks, governance, innovation, military, philosophy, policy, robotics/AI, strategy, theory, transhumanism

At least in public relations terms, transhumanism is a house divided against itself. On the one hand, there are the ingenious efforts of Zoltan Istvan – in the guise of an ongoing US presidential bid — to promote an upbeat image of the movement by focusing on human life extension and other tech-based forms of empowerment that might appeal to ordinary voters. On the other hand, there is transhumanism’s image in the ‘serious’ mainstream media, which is currently dominated by Nick Bostrom’s warnings of a superintelligence-based apocalypse. The smart machines will eat not only our jobs but eat us as well, if we don’t introduce enough security measures.

Of course, as a founder of contemporary transhumanism, Bostrom does not wish to stop artificial intelligence research, and he ultimately believes that we can prevent worst case scenarios if we act now. Thus, we see a growing trade in the management of ‘existential risks’, which focusses on how we might prevent if not predict any such tech-based species-annihilating prospects. Nevertheless, this turn of events has made some observers reasonably wonder whether indeed it might not be better simply to put a halt to artificial intelligence research altogether. As a result, the precautionary principle, previously invoked in the context of environmental and health policy, has been given a new lease on life as generalized world-view.

The idea of ‘existential risk’ capitalizes on the prospect of a very unlikely event that, were it to pass, would be extremely catastrophic for the human condition. Thus, the high value of the outcome psychologically counterbalances its low probability. It’s a bit like Pascal’s wager, whereby the potentially negative consequences of you not believing in God – to wit, eternal damnation — rationally compels you to believe in God, despite your instinctive doubts about the deity’s existence.

However, this line of reasoning underestimates both the weakness and the strength of human intelligence. On the one hand, we’re not so powerful as to create a ‘weapon of mass destruction’, however defined, that could annihilate all of humanity; on the other, we’re not so weak as to be unable to recover from whatever errors of design or judgement that might be committed in the normal advance of science and technology in the human life-world. I make this point not to counsel complacency but to question whether ‘existential risk’ is really the high concept that it is cracked up to be. I don’t believe it is.

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