Futurism:
this week

China demands New York Times app is banned

Chinese government officials have reportedly demanded that Apple remove all of The New York Times apps from the App Store in China as a consequence of the app breaking the law in China. Access has now been blocked to one of the few channels the paper has to reach readers in China.

Source: Cult of Mac

Russia should prepare to cut itself off from the global internet

Russian president Vladimir Putin has been advised to make sure Russia is ready to cut itself of from the global internet in order to protect itself against attacks on its critical infrastructure. The warning came from German Klimenko who said attacks could come about because of "tectonic shifts' in relations with the West".

Source: Tech Dirt

Could we use roads to wirelessly charge electric vehicles?

Israeli startup Electroad is working to make charging stations for electric cars obsolete by retrofitting existing roads with buried coils to charge electric vehicles. The team has already performed successful tests of the technology, and will be demoing the electric roads on a larger scale with a public bus route in Tel Aviv.

Source: Inhabitat

Japanese insurer replaces office workers with AI robots

Japanese insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is making 34 employees redundant and replacing them with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI. The technology will save the firm about 140m yen (£1m) a year after the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month. Maintaining it will cost about 15m yen (£100k) a year.

Source: The Guardian

DeepMind’s AlphaGo is secretly beating human players online

Google DeepMind’s Go-playing AI has been posing as an unknown player called “Master” and thrashing players on an online Go platform called Tygem. The AI previously beat top player Lee Sedol at the ancient Chinese game, that is said to be infinitely harder than chess, in 2016.

Source: New Scientist

Faraday Future unveils super fast electric car

Start-up Faraday Future has unveiled a self-driving electric car that it says can accelerate from zero to 60mph (97km/h) in 2.39 seconds. Faraday said, at the CES tech show in Las Vegas, the FF91 accelerates faster than Tesla's Model S or any other electric car currently in production.

Source: BBC

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag