Dubai claims that its robotic police officer, which debuted May 31, 2017, can read facial expressions and license plates. (Photo: Agence France-Presse/AFP)

In a few months I’ll begin work at Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) as a Berggruen Fellow. Before this year I wasn’t even clear what a fellowship was, and I was also utterly mystified as to how anyone could will a book into existence around the edges of life as a parent and professional. Now I’m suddenly about to receive the time, space, and resources necessary to sit down and do it.

The book is going to be about how artificial intelligence can amplify the best and worst human instincts. …


If it sounds absurd, you’re heading in the right direction…

The series “Guidance Systems” discusses technologies and techniques that seem to improve our lives by offering us new choices, while in fact shaping or removing our ability to decide things for ourselves. Here, we begin to look at systems of persuasion and manipulation known to psychologists and decision scientists that may have positive uses as well.

(PHOTO: Reuters / Amit Shabi)

A few nights ago I was asked to appear on a news network long after dark, and I drove about half an hour to a studio near where I was staying. I’ve been doing these sorts of appearances for a few years, either as…


A Nobel Prizewinner Working to Save All Us Suckers

When I first met Richard Thaler, he quoted Homer. Not the philosopher, the Simpson character. Thaler was looking for a simple way to communicate the nature of human errors as he, an economist, had studied them, and in a single episode of the Simpsons he’d discovered his rosetta stone.

Homer, during a routine checkup, is found to have a nail embedded in his brain, and the helpful doctors remove it. Suddenly, he’s smart. He’s walking around in a sweater vest, making intelligent observations about his astonished and increasingly irritated friends until…


We’ve built the perfect machine for another country to capture and retain “users”

The series “Guidance Systems” discusses technologies that seem to improve our lives by offering us new choices, while in fact shaping or removing our ability to decide things for ourselves.

A Moscow shop assistant cleans TV screens during a 2014 speech by Vladimir Putin. Photo: Dmitri Dukhanin/Kommersant via Getty Images

Back in August a Twitter user, “Conspirador Norteño,” began documenting an interesting pattern among certain folks posting alt-right messages. Here’s one user that fit the pattern.

Conspirador Norteño picked one user, DavidJo52951945, from this group — one of more than 60,000 in a network of similar users.

DavidJo52951945 went on a daily tear, writing over the years about Brexit, about Ukraine, about Hillary Clinton—whatever was going on in…


Cairo’s Tahrir Square, July 29, 2011 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The series “Guidance Systems” discusses technologies that seem to improve our lives by offering us new choices, while in fact shaping or removing our ability to decide things for ourselves.


How will we teach robots to understand our values? Maybe by reading them stories.

A robot waiter in Chengdu, China (Photo: Reuters/Stringer)

The series “Guidance Systems” discusses technologies that seem to improve our lives by offering us new choices, while in fact shaping or removing our ability to decide things for ourselves.


SeaRAM defense system, which intercepts incoming missiles without any human involvement. (Photo: Raytheon)

I once sat inside a flight simulator, slowly blacking out.

“Flight simulator” doesn’t do the machine justice, but those are exactly the right words. There are the software simulators, which show you the ride. And there are the physical simulators which bump you around on a small crane. This wasn’t like that. This was the whole experience, and I was about to wash out.

I was in a windowless white capsule roughly large enough to represent the space inside a fighter jet. The capsule was attached on its right side to an enormous joint that could rotate it in any…


In cigarettes, we’ve invented a deadly vice that is immune to natural selection and our own reasoning. They’re not the only product we’ve built with those characteristics.

The series “Guidance Systems” discusses technologies that seem to improve our lives by offering us new choices, while in fact shaping or removing our ability to decide things for ourselves.

At the age of 14, Sean David imagined becoming a doctor. “I wanted to be Marcus Welby,” he remembers. So in the year after graduating college, he began to work in a hospital any way he could. He became an orderly, scrubbing out surgical theaters after each procedure.

“You go in, you pick up all the biological waste and dispose of it. You put this sudsy soap on the floor…

Jacob Ward

Technology correspondent for NBC News. Berggruen Fellow at Stanford’s CASBS program. Former editor-in-chief of Popular Science. http://www.jacobward.com

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