Futurism:
this week

Hundreds of SolarCity staff have been fired

The solar energy company SolarCity, which was acquired by Tesla last year, has fired hundreds of additional workers. These dismissals are in addition to hundreds more that were reported earlier this month. Sources say around 1,200 people at Tesla and SolarCity have lost their jobs recently.

Source: Ars Technica

Facebook's AI director dismisses apocalyptic AI predictions

In an interview with The Verge, Facebook's AI director, Yann LeCun, has reiterated how far away we are fom having machines with general intelligence. "In particular areas machines have superhuman performance, but in terms of general intelligence we’re not even close to a rat," said LeCun.

Source: The Verge

Robot assistants will soon be roaming the aisles at Walmart

Walmart will have 50 robots in stores by the end of January. The robots scan aisles for out-of-stock items, items put in the wrong place by customers, incorrect prices and wrong or missing labels. Walmart CTO Jeremy King told Reuters that the robots are 50% more efficient than a human doing the same task.

'Bad Rabbit' ransomware strikes Ukraine and Russia

A new ransomware attack, dubbed Bad Rabbit, has been found spreading in Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere. The malware has affected systems at three Russian websites, an airport in Ukraine and an underground railway in the capital city, Kiev.

Source: BBC

Just the US and Syria remain opposed to the Paris climate deal

Nicaragua has said that it will join the Paris climate agreement, leaving only two countries that have either not joined the deal or revealed their plans to leave it: Syria and the United States. Nicaragua was originally critical of the deal, seeing it as insufficiently ambitious.

Source: New York Times

Saudi Arabia grants citizenship to a robot named Sophia

A robot designed by Hanson Robotics has been given the right to citizenship in Saudi Arabia. The revelation/PR stunt came out of the Future Investment Initiative being held in Riyadh. The exact rights the robot, known as Sophia, are unknown.

Source: Tech Crunch

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC