Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics are probably the most famous and influential science fictional lines of tech policy ever written. The renowned writer speculated that as machines took on greater autonomy and a greater role in human life, we would need staunch regulations to ensure they could not put us in harm’s way. And those proposed laws hark back to 1942, when the first of Asimov’s Robot stories were published. Now, with A.I., software automation, and factory robotics ascendant, the dangers posed by machines and their makers are even more complex and urgent.
There is an argument to be made that what happens during your lifespan isn’t pure chance, nor pure skill. It’s a combination of both.
To better understand how the competing forces of luck and decision-making affect outcomes amid the uncertainty of life, the writer and psychologist Maria Konnikova did what anyone would do: took up high-stakes poker and hit the casino circuit. Her latest book, The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win, recounts the journey.
The doctors were stumped. They were trying to treat a woman in her seventies who had fallen, broken her femur, and contracted a bacterial infection during a trip to India. Back in the United States, the physicians treating the woman in a hospital in Reno, Nevada, discovered that the bug in question was something called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. But no matter how many antibiotics they tried — and they would administer 26 in total — none had any effect. Two weeks after being admitted to the hospital, the patient died.
Muhammad H. Zaman begins his alarming new book, Biography…
Algorithms have thrown the gauntlet down. They’re challenging our distinctive status as the most advanced learning species on the planet. In the past several years, machines have “learned” to instantaneously transcribe a foreign language and detect typos in our Google Docs; they’ve predicted the superfecta of the Kentucky Derby, provided well-wrought medical advice, composed classical music albums, and humbled us at chess. And yet, according to the French neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, the most sophisticated artificial intelligence technologies are still far less smart than the learning capabilities contained in even an infant’s brain.
In 2014, two 18-year-old roommates in Grand Forks, North Dakota, named Bailey Henke and Kain Schwandt, were unraveling from opioid addictions. Over Christmas vacation, they took a road trip, trying to kick their habits. They brought along Suboxone, a drug that helps ease withdrawal. And it seemed to work. They both came home clean.
Within days, though, they relapsed. A friend procured a dozen grams of heroin and a gram of fentanyl — both bought from the now defunct darknet site Evolution. This fentanyl wasn’t the pharmaceutical-grade version that had been around for decades. Rather, it was made thousands of…
By the time Judith Grisel turned 23, it had been years since she had gone so much as a day “without a drink, pill, fix, or joint,” she says now. Homeless in South Florida, Grisel stole credit cards to feed her habit, got kicked out of three colleges, and ultimately began shooting cocaine. At one point, while doing cocaine with a Vietnam vet named Johnny, the man overdosed. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he began convulsing. Grisel’s response? “He probably won’t want his next bump,” she remembers.
As Grisel writes in her new book, Never Enough: The…
A writer. Not based in Brooklyn. Recent bylines with Vox, Vanity Fair, Harvard Magazine, MIT’s Undark, VICE and Playboy.