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Reimagining our pandemic problems with the mindset of an engineer

The last 20 months turned every dog into an amateur epidemiologist and statistician. Meanwhile, a group of bona fide epidemiologists and statisticians came to believe that pandemic problems might be more effectively solved by adopting the mindset of an engineer: that is, focusing on pragmatic problem-solving with an iterative, adaptive strategy to make things work. In a recent essay,...


THURSDAY 14. OCTOBER 2021


Getting the most from your data-driven transformation: 10 key principles

The importance of data to today’s businesses can’t be overstated. Studies show data-driven companies are 58% more likely to beat revenue goals than non-data-driven companies and 162% more likely to significantly outperform laggards. Data analytics are helping nearly half of all companies make better decisions about everything, from the products they deliver to the...

Facebook wants machines to see the world through our eyes

We take it for granted that machines can recognize what they see in photos and videos. That ability rests on large data sets like ImageNet, a hand-curated collection of millions of photos used to train most of the best image-recognition models of the last decade.  But the images in these data sets portray a world of curated objects—a picture gallery that doesn’t capture the mess of...


WEDNESDAY 13. OCTOBER 2021


Covid conspiracy theories are driving people to anti-Semitism online

A warning: Conspiracy theories about covid are helping disseminate anti-Semitic beliefs to a wider audience, warns a new report by the antiracist advocacy group Hope not Hate. The report says that not only has the pandemic revived interest in the “New World Order” conspiracy theory of a secret Jewish-run elite that aims to run the world, but far-right activists have also worked to convert...

Podcast: The story of AI, as told by the people who invented it

Welcome to I Was There When, a new oral history project from the In Machines We Trust podcast. It features stories of how breakthroughs in artificial intelligence and computing happened, as told by the people who witnessed them. In this first episode, we meet Joseph Atick— who helped create the first commercially viable face recognition system. Credits: This episode was produced by...


TUESDAY 12. OCTOBER 2021


AI fake-face generators can be rewound to reveal the real faces they trained on

Load up the website This Person Does Not Exist and it’ll show you a human face, near-perfect in its realism yet totally fake. Refresh and the neural network behind the site will generate another, and another, and another. The endless sequence of AI-crafted faces is produced by a generative adversarial network (GAN)—a type of AI that learns to produce realistic but fake examples of the data it...


MONDAY 11. OCTOBER 2021



FRIDAY 8. OCTOBER 2021


Video: How cheap renewables and rising activism are shifting climate politics

The plummeting costs of renewables, the growing strength of the clean energy sector, and the rising influence of activists have begun to shift the politics of climate action in the US, panelists argued during MIT Technology Review’s annual EmTech conference last week. Those forces allowed President Joe Biden to put climate change at the center of his campaign and helped build momentum behind...


THURSDAY 7. OCTOBER 2021


It’s 20 years since the first drone strike. It’s time to admit they’ve failed.

After the Taliban took over Kabul in mid-August, a black-bearded man with a Kalashnikov appeared on the streets. He visited former politicians and gave a sermon during Friday prayers at the capital’s historic Pul-e-Khishti mosque. But the man, passionate and seemingly victorious, was no mere Taliban fighter among tens of thousands of others: he was Khalil ur-Rahman Haqqani, a Taliban leader...


WEDNESDAY 6. OCTOBER 2021


A French company is using enzymes to recycle one of the most common single-use plastics

Plastic is an environmental scourge, and most isn’t recycled. Enzymes, nature’s catalysts, may be able to help. In late September, Carbios, a French startup, opened a demonstration plant in central France to test this idea. The facility will use enzymes to recycle PET, one of the most common single-use plastics and the material used to make most beverage bottles.  While we’ve...


TUESDAY 5. OCTOBER 2021


The Facebook whistleblower says its algorithms are dangerous. Here’s why.

On Sunday night, the primary source for the Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files, an investigative series based on internal Facebook documents, revealed her identity in an episode of 60 Minutes. Frances Haugen, a former product manager at the company, says she came forward after she saw Facebook’s leadership repeatedly prioritize profit over safety. Before quitting…

Millions of people rely on Facebook to get online. The outage left them stranded.

One of the last messages that Vaiva Bezhan sent on Facebook Messenger on Monday afternoon, Central European Time, was a bit of a cliffhanger—and incredibly time sensitive. The Lithuanian photojournalist is co-organizer of the Afghan Support Group, one of many volunteer initiatives trying to help evacuate vulnerable Afghans in the wake of the Taliban takeover by any means possible. She was...


MONDAY 4. OCTOBER 2021


This woman’s brain implant zaps her with electricity when it senses she’s getting depressed

Sarah, a 36-year-old woman living in California, had lived with chronic depression for five years. She felt suicidal multiple times an hour and was unable to make decisions about basic questions like what to eat. Nothing she had tried to treat it, including electroconvulsive therapy, had helped. Then, in June 2020, she had an implant inserted into her skull that zaps the parts of her brain that...


FRIDAY 1. OCTOBER 2021



WEDNESDAY 29. SEPTEMBER 2021


DeepMind’s AI predicts almost exactly when and where it’s going to rain

First protein folding, now weather forecasting: London-based AI firm DeepMind is continuing its run applying deep learning to hard science problems. Working with the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, DeepMind has developed a deep-learning tool called DGMR that can accurately predict the likelihood of rain in the next 90 minutes—one of weather forecasting’s toughest...


TUESDAY 28. SEPTEMBER 2021


The pandemic is testing the limits of face recognition

At first glance, JB, an artist based in Los Angeles, perhaps doesn’t look much like the picture on their driver’s license. For one thing, the ID photo is from a few years ago. Hair that was once long and dark is now buzzed and bleached. And there’s the fact that JB is transgender and has been taking testosterone for over two years, which has led to changing facial features, thicker eyebrows,...


MONDAY 27. SEPTEMBER 2021


Pulling methane out of the atmosphere could slow global warming—if we can figure out how to do it

Pulling methane out of the atmosphere has the potential to help slow global warming in the next few decades—but researchers are still trying to figure out if it’s really feasible. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, and human activities like natural-gas extraction and agriculture have more than doubled its concentration since the preindustrial era. Removing some methane from the...

The pandemic problems that boosters won’t solve

The US booster program is about to get underway, after the CDC backed additional shots for a large swathe of the American public. The agency now recommends that people aged 65 years and older, adults in long-term care and those over 50 with underlying medical conditions should get a third Pfizer/BioNTech shot. (Those whose first shot was Johnson & Johnson or Moderna will have to wait a...


FRIDAY 24. SEPTEMBER 2021


The US is about to kick-start its controversial covid booster campaign

The news: The White House is set to kick off its booster shot campaign today, after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky overruled her own agency’s advisors in favor of recommending third doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for frontline workers. Who gets it: There are three groups of Americans now eligible for a booster shot: those 65 and older, some adults...