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How to plan your life during a pandemic

The covid-19 pandemic shocked the world and generated high levels of economic, political, and social uncertainty. And for many people, the virus compounded the growing sense of uncertainty they already felt in their lives as a result of automation, geopolitical tensions, and widening inequalities. With the many sudden changes that covid-19 has brought, planning for the future can feel...


FRIDAY 25. SEPTEMBER 2020


These weird, unsettling photos show that AI is getting smarter

Of all the AI models in the world, OpenAI’s GPT-3 has most captured the public’s imagination. It can spew poems, short stories, and songs with little prompting, and has been demonstrated to fool people into thinking its outputs were written by a human. But its eloquence is more of a parlor trick, not to be confused with realintelligence. Nonetheless, researchers believe that the techniques...


THURSDAY 24. SEPTEMBER 2020


Facebook wants to make AI better by asking people to break it

The explosive successes of AI in the last decade or so are typically chalked up to lots of data and lots of computing power. But benchmarks also play a crucial role in driving progress—tests that researchers can pit their AI against to see how advanced it is. For example, ImageNet, a public data set of 14 million images, sets a target for image recognition. MNIST did the same for handwriting...

How close is AI to decoding our emotions?

Researchers have spent years trying to crack the mystery of how we express our feelings. Pioneers in the field of emotion detection will tell you the problem is far from solved. But that hasn’t stopped a growing number of companies from claiming their algorithms have cracked the puzzle. In part one of a two-part series on emotion AI, Jennifer Strong and the team at MIT Technology Review explore...

Why people might never use autonomous cars

Automated driving is advancing all the time, but there’s still a critical missing ingredient: trust. Host Jennifer Strong meets engineers building a new language of communication between automated vehicles and their human occupants, a crucial missing piece in the push toward a driverless future. We meet:  Dr. Richard Corey and Dr. Nicholas Giudice, founders of the VEMI Lab at the...

Google Maps now shows you where covid-19 cases are spiking

The news: Google Maps has added a new feature which lets people see the number of covid-19 cases per 100,000 people for any given area, with a label indicating if cases are trending up or down. In a blog post, Google said the functionality will start rolling out worldwide on both Android and iOS this week. In the US this goes down to state and county level, but in Europe it just shows the national...

This restaurant duo want a zero-carbon food system. Can it work?

When Karen Leibowitz and Anthony Myint opened The Perennial, the most ambitious and expensive restaurant of their careers, it was essentially on a self-dare. The married duo had found enormous success with their previous restaurant in San Francisco, Mission Chinese Food, but realized something was missing. “Basically zero chefs were working on climate change,” Myint…

Climate scientists are terrified of a second Trump term

Daniel Schrag has spent most of his life working on climate change. He studied the planet’s ancient warming periods early in his career, served as a climate advisor to President Barack Obama, and is now director of Harvard’s Center for the Environment. But when he imagines the possibilities if President Donald Trump is reelected, climate change isn’t the issue he’s most concerned...

California looks to eliminate gas guzzlers – but legal hurdles abound

California Governor Gavin Newsom made a bold attempt today to eliminate sales of new gas-guzzling cars and trucks, marking a critical step in the state’s quest to become carbon neutral by 2045. But the effort to clean up the state’s largest source of climate emissions is almost certain to face serious legal challenges, particularly if President Donald Trump is re-elected in November. Newsom...


WEDNESDAY 23. SEPTEMBER 2020


If China plans to go carbon neutral by 2060, why is it building so many coal plants?

China’s president, Xi Jinping, has announced plans for the nation to become carbon neutral by 2060, setting a bold goal for the world’s biggest climate polluter. But it’s hard to reconcile Xi’s pledge, made before the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, with the nation’s recent actions. Most notably, China is in the midst of a coal building boom. As of late last year, the country had...

How the Artemis moon mission could help get us to Mars

“If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, He would have given man a moon.” The famed rocket scientist Krafft Ehricke uttered those words in 1984. He wanted to highlight how we could use the moon as a springboard to expand human civilization into the rest of the solar system. This was more than a decade on from the last Apollo mission to the moon, and Ehricke was watching NASA and the...

We’re not ready for AI, says the winner of a new $1m AI prize

Regina Barzilay, a professor at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), is the first winner of the Squirrel AI Award for Artificial Intelligence for the Benefit of Humanity, a new prize recognizing outstanding research in AI. Barzilay started her career working on natural-language processing. After surviving breast cancer in 2014, she switched her focus to...

Four must-haves for business resilience in a time of crisis

In March, Adobe’s leadership team decided—for the sake of employee well-being—to institute worldwide work-from-home policies to protect against the spread of covid-19. And it was a large undertaking. This content was produced by Adobe. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff. Anil Chakravarthy is Executive Vice President and General Manager of Adobe’s...

The only black hole we’ve ever seen has a shadow that wobbles

Over a year ago, scientists unleashed something incredible on the world: the first photo of a black hole ever taken. By putting together radio astronomy observations made with dishes across four continents, the collaboration known as the Event Horizon Telescope managed to peer 53 million light-years away and look at a supermassive black hole, which is 6.5 million times the mass of the sun and sits...

OpenAI is giving Microsoft exclusive access to its GPT-3 language model

The news: On September 22, Microsoft announced that it would begin exclusively licensing GPT-3, the world’s largest language model built by San Francisco-based OpenAI. The model acts like a powerful autocomplete: it can generate essays given the starting sentence, songs given a musical intro, or even webpage layouts given a few lines of HTML code. Microsoft says it will begin making use of these...


TUESDAY 22. SEPTEMBER 2020


A city in Brazil where covid-19 ran amok may be a ‘sentinel’ for the rest of the world

What happens when a major city allows the coronavirus to rage unchecked? If the Brazilian city of Manaus is any answer, it means about two-thirds of the population could get infected and one person in 500 could die before the epidemic winds down. During May, as the virus spread rapidly in Manaus, the equatorial capital of Amazonas state, dire reports described overwhelmed hospitals and...

AI planners in Minecraft could help machines design better cities

A dozen or so steep-roofed buildings cling to the edges of an open-pit mine. High above them, on top of an enormous rock arch, sits an inaccessible house. Elsewhere, a railway on stilts circles a group of multicolored tower blocks. Ornate pagodas decorate a large paved plaza. And a lone windmill turns on an island, surrounded by square pigs. This is Minecraft city-building, AI style. Minecraft...


MONDAY 21. SEPTEMBER 2020


CIA’s new tech recruiting pitch: More patents, more profits

America’s most famous spy agency has a major competitor it can’t quite seem to beat: Silicon Valley. The CIA has long been a place cutting-edge technology is researched, developed, and realized—and it wants to lead in fields like artificial intelligence and biotechnology. However, recruiting and retaining the talent capable of building these tools is a challenge on many levels, especially...

It’s getting harder for tech companies to bridge the US-China divide

Corporations have never been able to cleanly separate their activities from geopolitics. Now, technology firms are finding it increasingly difficult to work across the US-China divide. Try as they might to cross-pollinate through research and investments, the climate between China and the United States continues to deteriorate into political one-upmanship, leaving users to pay the steepest costs....

App bans won’t make US security risks disappear

Will the US government ban TikTok and WeChat, or won’t it—and why? With the Trump administration issuing vaguely phrased executive orders and policies about the apps, even as legal challenges against potential bans move through the courts and the president gives his “blessing” to a deal to keep TikTok in US app stores, it’s hard to make out a coherent story. The Trump...

The TikTok and WeChat ban that wasn’t: here’s whats happening now

What’s going on? The US Commerce Department issued an order banning Americans from downloading Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat at the end of last week. A lot has changed since then. First, TikTok: Back in August, President Donald Trump said TikTok had to either be bought by a US entity by September 15 or face a ban. On Friday, the company, which doesn’t operate in China but is...


FRIDAY 18. SEPTEMBER 2020


Americans won’t be able to download TikTok or WeChat from Sunday

What’s happening? The US Commerce Department has issued an order banning Americans from downloading Chinese-owned apps TikTok and WeChat; it’s due to come into effect on Sunday, September 20. Existing users in the US will still be able to use the apps, but they won’t receive updates or patches from Sunday onwards, and the apps will both disappear from Google’s and Apple’s US app...

A patient has died after ransomware hackers hit a German hospital

For the first time ever, a patient’s death has been linked directly to a cyberattack. Police have launched a murder investigation after ransomware disrupted emergency care at Düsseldorf University Hospital in Germany. The victim: Prosecutors in Cologne say a female patient from Düsseldorf was scheduled to undergo critical care at the hospital when the September 9 attack disabled systems....

Letter-writing staved off lockdown loneliness. Now it’s getting out the vote.

For the past couple of years, Courtney Cochran hosted a Nashville-based meetup group called the Snail Mail Social Club. Before the pandemic, it involved people gathering, pen and paper in hand, to write letters together. “It was a fun social endeavor,” Cochran says. “You got some face-to-face connecting time with people.” When the coronavirus made…


THURSDAY 17. SEPTEMBER 2020


From support function to growth engine: The future of AI and customer service

When it comes to imagining the future, customer service often gets painted in a dystopian light. Take the 2002 sci-fi film Minority Report. Tom Cruise’s John Anderton walks into the Gap, an identity recognition system scans him, and a hologram asks about a recent purchase. This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT...