In the News 06.02.17 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
Monday 6th February, 2017
The Merging of Humans and Machines is Happening Now
The merging of machine capability and human consciousness is already happening. Writing exclusively for WIRED, DARPA director Arati Prabhkar outlines the potential rewards we face in the future – and the risks we face
Peter Sorger and Ben Gyori are brainstorming with a computer in a laboratory at Harvard Medical School. Their goal is to figure out why a powerful melanoma drug stops helping patients after a few months. But if their approach to human-computer collaboration is successful, it could generate a new approach to fundamentally understanding complexities that may change not only how cancer patients are treated, but also how innovation and discovery are pursued in countless other domains.
At the heart of their challenge is the crazily complicated hairball of activity going on inside a cancer cell – or in any cell. Untold thousands of interacting biochemical processes, constantly morphing, depending on which genes are most active and what’s going on around them. Sorger and Gyori know from studies of cells taken from treated patients that the melanoma drug’s loss of efficacy over time correlates with increased activity of two genes. But with so many factors directly or indirectly affecting those genes, and only a relatively crude model of those global interactions available, it’s impossible to determine which actors in the cell they might want to target with additional drugs.
Read the rest of this article at Wired
Click Here to Kill Everyone
Last year, on October 21, your digital video recorder — or at least a DVR like yours — knocked Twitter off the internet. Someone used your DVR, along with millions of insecure webcams, routers, and other connected devices, to launch an attack that started a chain reaction, resulting in Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, and many sites going off the internet. You probably didn’t realize that your DVR had that kind of power. But it does.
All computers are hackable. This has as much to do with the computer market as it does with the technologies. We prefer our software full of features and inexpensive, at the expense of security and reliability. That your computer can affect the security of Twitter is a market failure. The industry is filled with market failures that, until now, have been largely ignorable. As computers continue to permeate our homes, cars, businesses, these market failures will no longer be tolerable. Our only solution will be regulation, and that regulation will be foisted on us by a government desperate to “do something” in the face of disaster.
Read the rest of this article at New York Magazine
Matthew McConaughey: ‘My Agent Said no to Romcoms. And Then There Was Nothing’
In Matthew McConaughey’s new movie, Gold, he plays a man whose characterisation he loosely based on his father. That character, Kenny Wells, is himself based on a real person, a businessman who in the early 1990s struck gold in Indonesia and was briefly worth $4bn, before the deal catastrophically derailed. In the actor’s mind, that shambolic entrepreneurism is typical of what the movie calls “the hustlers, the scrappers, the make-it-happen muthafuckers”. Just like Jim McConaughey.
It is a long way from McConaughey the hustler’s child to the sleek actor before me in a New York hotel room. Now 47, McConaughey stretches out in his chair, limbs splayed, a lazy smile on his face that he keeps just this side of a smirk. For a long time, his public image was closely identified with his first movie role, as Wooderson, a good-natured stoner in Richard Linklater’s Dazed And Confused. In the early to mid-2000s, he made a slew of romantic comedies in which he bounced around on the beach or trailed young ladies through the streets of Manhattan, with an easy charm that both enhanced and circumscribed his appeal. Then McConaughey entered a third phase, widely characterised as his big gamble to be taken seriously, but which he says was a “life vest” at a time when acting had become deeply uninteresting. After a few small, dark films it culminated in his 2014 Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.
Read the rest of this article at The Guardian
What Cats Can Teach Us About How to Live
A philosopher once assured me, many years ago, that he had converted his cat to veganism. Believing he was joking, I asked how he had achieved this feat. Had he supplied the cat with mouse-flavoured vegan food? Had he presented his cat with other cats, already practising veganism, as feline role models? Or had he argued with the cat and convinced it that eating meat is wrong? My interlocutor wasn’t amused, and I realised that he really believed the cat had opted for a meat-free diet. So I ended our exchange with a simple question: did the cat go out? It did, he told me. That solved the mystery. Plainly, the cat was supplementing its diet by covert hunting. If it ever brought home any of the carcasses – a practice to which ethically undeveloped cats are sadly prone – the virtuous philosopher had managed not to notice them.
It is not hard to imagine how the cat on the receiving end of this experiment in moral education must have viewed its human teacher. Perplexity at the absurdity of his behaviour would soon have been followed by contemptuous indifference. Seldom doing anything unless it serves a definite purpose or gives immediate satisfaction, cats are arch-realists. Faced with human folly, they simply go their own way.
Read the rest of this article at New Statesman
A Tale Of Two Moralities, Part One: Regional Inequality and Moral Polarization
The United States is not very united.
Americans have been sorting themselves along ideological lines into like-minded regions of the country, increasing polarization in congressional voting patterns, and creating a striking division in political preference and party loyalty between city-dwellers and the denizens of low-density exurban and rural counties.
That’s how Hillary Clinton managed to lose the Electoral College vote to Donald Trump despite beating his overall vote total by nearly three million votes. There are more Democratic voters, but they are densely concentrated in a handful of Democrat-heavy cities and states, while Republicans are spread relatively thinly but evenly across the country’s non-urban expanse.
Here’s a useful illustration of the pattern from Robert Vanderbei, a Princeton mathematician and operations research expert:
This is, in effect, a picture of two nations with rival worldviews inhabiting a single territory. It doesn’t take a big leap to get to a picture of American electoral politics as a low-grade civil war between sectarian factions—basically a war of religions, of identity-constituting moral worldviews, in which neither side is very clear about what their religion is.
“The People” vs. “the Elite”?
Because America’s highly-schooled creative, political, academic, and business classes tend to cluster in liberal cities, the town-and-country split corresponds to a rough class distinction between so-called “elites” and non-urban non-elites. Underline “rough” here.
People of color number heavily among urban non-elites, and tend to vote with (mostly white) urban elites, so it’s wrong to conflate the town-and-country divide with the elite/ordinary folks divide. Many, many millions of ordinary Americans aren’t white and live in big cities. That said, the United States will remain a white-majority, white-dominated country for another few decades. Populist anti-elitism, as it has manifested itself behind Trump, seems to me largely a reaction of non-city-dwelling whites against urban whites and the cosmopolitan, multicultural conception of American identity they affirm.
But let me repeat that “white people who don’t live in cities” is not remotely the same thing as “the people,” most of whom do live in densely populated metropolitan areas, and many of whom are African-American, Asian, and Hispanic. And it’s important to clarify further that “white people who don’t live in cities” is also not remotely the same thing as “the white working class,” as there are many millions of non-urban, white people with college degrees and upper-class incomes. The ruling political, business, and cultural classes in Republican-dominated places like to pretend that they’re “just folks,” too, but they’re aren’t. They’re elites.
Read the rest of this article at Niskanen Center