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Forget Boston Dynamics. This robot taught itself to walk

A pair of robot legs called Cassie has been taught to walk using reinforcement learning, the training technique that teaches AIs complex behavior via trial and error. It’s the first time reinforcement learning has been used to teach a two-legged robot how to walk from scratch, including the ability to walk in a crouch and while carrying an unexpected load. But can it boogie?...

Preparing for AI-enabled cyberattacks

Cyberattacks continue to grow in prevalence and sophistication. With the ability to disrupt business operations, wipe out critical data, and cause reputational damage, they pose an existential threat to businesses, critical services, and infrastructure. Today’s new wave of attacks is outsmarting and outpacing humans, and even starting to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI). What’s known...

You don’t get an invite to these weddings unless you’re vaccinated or have a negative covid test

On March 20, Kyle Niemer and Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom had the wedding of their dreams: intimate (around 40 guests), in a spacious venue with a dance floor, great food — and PCR tests on demand to check unvaccinated guests, administered by a doctor and nurse in the bridal party. For two weeks, the couple was on edge. Niemer said he had “CNN dreams, where we were that wedding party with...


WEDNESDAY 7. APRIL 2021


What you need to know about the Facebook data leak

The news: The personal data of 533 million Facebook users in more than 106 countries was found to be freely available online last weekend. The data trove, uncovered by security researcher Alon Gal, includes phone numbers, email addresses, hometowns, full names, and birth dates. Initially, Facebook claimed that the data leak was previously reported on in 2019 and that it had patched the...


TUESDAY 6. APRIL 2021


The future of work is uniquely human

The disruptive shifts of 2020, including covid-19 shutdowns that led to millions of workers working remotely, forced organizations to radically rethink everything from worker well-being, business models and operations to investments in cloud-based collaboration and communication tools. Across every industry, last year’s best-laid plans were turned upside down. So it’s not surprising that...


MONDAY 5. APRIL 2021


The CDC’s $1.75 billion sequencing boom may be throwing money at the wrong problem

Shortly after President Biden was inaugurated, the man who was being given command of his coronavirus response had a message about what America needed to do. “We’re 43rd in the world in genomic sequencing,” said Jeff Zients at a press conference in January. “Totally unacceptable.” The answer, he suggested, was to “do the appropriate amount…


FRIDAY 2. APRIL 2021


How has the US pandemic response increased inequality? Look at New York’s nail salons.

Even when covid-19 forced nail salons in New York to close, Araceli continued to work. A nail technician for over a decade, she now found herself making house calls to clients, entering their homes to manicure their nails as the pandemic raged. It was spring of 2020: vaccines had not yet been approved, but she needed the income—even though she knew that without health insurance, the hospital...

Podcast: In the AI of the Beholder

Ideas about what constitutes “beauty” are complex, subjective, and by no means limited to physical appearances. Elusive though it is, everyone wants more of it. That means big business and increasingly, people harnessing algorithms to create their ideal selves in the digital and, sometimes, physical worlds. In this episode, we explore the popularity of beauty…


THURSDAY 1. APRIL 2021


Error-riddled data sets are warping our sense of how good AI really is

The 10 most cited AI data sets are riddled with label errors, according to a new study out of MIT, and it’s distorting our understanding of the field’s progress. Data backbone: Data sets are the backbone of AI research, but some are more critical than others. There are a core set of them that researchers use to evaluate machine-learning models as a way to track how AI capabilities are...


WEDNESDAY 31. MARCH 2021


In pursuit of pragmatic solutions to pervasive problems

The Alibaba Damo Academy is a unique hybrid research and development (R&D) facility. An academically-oriented independent science organization established in 2017 in Hangzhou, China, it is also an arms-length research affiliate of its founder, Chinese internet technology giant Alibaba. Damo’s project development pipelines are positioned around developing data-enabled technologies for...

Geoengineering researchers have halted plans for a balloon launch in Sweden

In an unexpected move, the advisory committee for a Harvard University geoengineering research project is recommending that the team suspend plans for its first balloon flight in Sweden this summer. The purpose of that initial flight was to evaluate the propelled balloon’s equipment and software in the stratosphere. In subsequent launches, the researchers hope to release small amounts...

Deepfake “Amazon workers” are sowing confusion on Twitter. That’s not the problem.

The news: Ahead of a landmark vote that could lead to the formation of the first-ever labor union at a US-based Amazon warehouse, new Twitter accounts purporting to be Amazon employees started appearing. The profiles used deepfake photos as profile pictures and were tweeting some pretty laughable, over-the-top defenses of Amazon’s working practices. They didn’t seem real, but they...


TUESDAY 30. MARCH 2021


Astronomers thought comet Borisov was pretty boring. They were wrong

Our solar system is full of comets that whizz by as we track them over centuries. But humans have so far seen only two visiting objects from outside the solar system. There’s ‘Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid that we think might actually be a flat pancake-like rock originating from the remains of an exoplanet similar to Pluto. It’s so weird that people thought maybe it was an...

An ecosystem to overhaul China’s health care

Like many countries, China has a health care problem. Changing demographics and lifestyles mean demand for health care is outstripping growth in medical resources and its cost is rising faster than the insurance premium. With 250 million people over the age of 60, the world’s most populous country is ageing. Diseases associated with more affluent societies, such as cardiovascular conditions...

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are 90% effective at stopping infection in the real world too

The news: A “real-world” study of 3,950 people in six states found that two doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines cut the risk of infection by 90%. The findings are broadly in line with the 95% and 94% efficacy that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed, respectively, in their clinical trials. The details: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study recruited essential...


MONDAY 29. MARCH 2021


Building customer relationships with conversational AI

We’ve all been there. “Please listen to our entire menu as our options have changed. Say or press one for product information…” Sometimes, these automated customer service experiences are effective and efficient—other times, not so much. Many organizations are already using chatbots and virtual assistants to help better serve their customers. These intelligent, automated...

The science and technology that can help save the ocean

Here on Earth, we have more detailed maps of Mars than of our own ocean, and that’s a problem. A massive force for surviving climate change, the ocean absorbs 90% of the heat caused by emissions and generates 50% of the oxygen we breathe. “We have the ocean to thank for so many aspects of our safety and well-being,” says Dawn Wright, oceanographer and chief scientist at geographic...

Keeping covid vaccines cold isn’t easy. These ideas could help.

In order to truly end the pandemic, it will be essential to get vaccines to all parts of the world. The first part of that challenge involves boosting the supply and securing doses for all, but even if enough vaccines become ready, the next hurdles are storage and distribution. For some covid vaccines, that means shuttling through what’s known as the “cold chain,” a series of very well...


SATURDAY 27. MARCH 2021


A voice game boom is giving kids a break from screen time

In a Massachusetts home, a family gathers around the kitchen table. The parents tune in to the device that sits at the head of the table. Moments later, a cheery voice quiets the chatter as the whole family settles in to listen. No, this isn’t a scene from the golden era of the wireless. This is the Daniels home during covid-19 lockdown, and the focus of the family’s attention is Yoto, an...


FRIDAY 26. MARCH 2021


Google’s top security teams unilaterally shut down a counterterrorism operation

Google runs some of the most venerated cybersecurity operations on the planet: its Project Zero team, for example, finds powerful undiscovered security vulnerabilities, while its Threat Analysis Group directly counters hacking backed by governments, including North Korea, China and Russia. And those two teams caught an unexpectedly big fish recently: an “expert” hacking group exploiting 11...

Andrew Ng: Forget about building an AI-first business. Start with a mission.

Andrew Ng has worn many hats in his life. You may know him as the founder of the Google Brain team or the former chief scientist at Baidu. You may also know him as your own instructor. He has taught countless students, curious listeners, and business leaders about the principles of machine learning through his wildly popular online courses. Now in his latest venture, Landing AI, which he...