this week

Eric Schmidt: The US Risks Falling Behind China in AI

Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google owner Alphabet, has warned that the US is at serious risk of falling behind China in the development of AI, with significant implications for both commercial and military interests. Part of the problem, he says, is that many of the world's best AI experts cannot get US visas due to their nationalities.

Source: The Verge

BMW Promises Fully Self-Driving Cars by 2021

Car maker BMW has said that it is on track to deliver a vehicle with level 5 automation - a fully driverless car - by 2021. The car would be able to make all driving decisions itself, removing the need for human drivers. However, the company is unlikely to make the car commercially available for several years due to legal issues.

Source: Automotive News

Smartphones Are Changing Brains: Neuroscientists

The frequency of smartphone use is changing the shape and structure of our brains, particular among children, according to neuroscientists. Studies have found that there is now a clear difference between children's brains now and 10 or 20 years ago, leading to predictions that technology will future change the brains of future generations.

Source: NBC

Genetic Engineering Could Protect Galapagos Fauna from Extinction

The unique biodiversity of the Galapagos is under threat, with a host of species at risk of extinction at the hands of invasive newcomers. Genetic engineering could be the answer, allowing the activities of interlopers to be stemmed without resorting to poison. However, there are serious ethical and practical concerns to consider.

Sensors Used to Find Previously Undiscovered Void in Great Pyramid

A previously unknown cavity, spanning 30m, has been found in the Great Pyramid of Giza, using sensors designed to detect particles known as muons. The first major structure found in the pyramid since Victorian times, the cavity sits above the grand gallery, and may be a formerly undiscovered chamber or just play a structural role.

Source: The Guardian

AI Lawyer Outperforms Humans in Legal Competition

A content between AI lawyer Case Cruncher Alpha and legal professionals from some of London's biggest firms saw the software come out on top. Both the humans and the AI were tasked with predicting the outcome of hundreds of insurance mis-selling cases, with the AI getting an accuracy of 86.6% compared to the human's 66.3%.

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