AI Creates Worlds Without End

Weyman Holton
Jun 28 · 6 min read

Instant Universes Baffle Creator Scientists / Facebook Overseers / Google Private Cables Undersea / Japan Self-Driving Car Consortium Forms

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Katyanna Quach: That this AI can simulate universes in 30ms is not the scary part. It’s that its creators don’t know why it works so well

Neural networks can build 3D simulations of the universe in milliseconds, compared to days or weeks when using traditional supercomputing methods, according to new research…To their surprise, the researchers also noticed [it] seemed to be able to produce simulations of the universe from conditions that weren’t specifically included in the training data. During inference tests, the team tweaked input variables such as the amount of dark matter in the virtual universes, and the model still managed to spit out accurate simulations despite not being specifically trained for these changes.

“It’s like teaching image recognition software with lots of pictures of cats and dogs, but then it’s able to recognize elephants,” said Shirley Ho, first author of the paper and a group leader at the Flatiron Institute. “Nobody knows how it does this, and it’s a great mystery to be solved.

When engineers can’t explain why a machine works or reproduce its results, something is wrong. Science is math and all things are calculable, even if its difficult. Artificial intelligence is a collection of mathematics and no matter what the smoke and mirrors, it is not alive or thinking. Dig in to this story from the Register.

Natasha Lomas: Facebook’s content oversight board plan is raising more questions than it answers

…The report is worth reading in full to get a sense of the broad spectrum of governance questions and conundrums Facebook is here wading into.

If, as it very much looks, this is a Facebook-configured exercise in blame spreading for the problems its platform hosts, the surface area for disagreement and dispute will clearly be massive — and from the company’s point of view that already looks like a win. Given how, since 2016, Facebook (and Zuckerberg) have been the conduit for so much public and political anger linked to the spreading and accelerating of harmful online content.

Differing opinions and will also provide cover for Facebook to justify starting “narrow”. Which it has said it will do with the board, aiming to have something up and running by the end of this year. But that just means it’ll be managing expectations of how little actual oversight will flow right from the very start.

The report also shows that Facebook’s claimed ‘listening ear’ for a “global perspective” has some very hard limits.

Frederic Lardinois: Google is building a new private subsea cable between Portugal and South Africa

Google today announced Equiano, a new private subsea cable that will connect Portugal and South Africa. The cable will be built by Alcatel Submarine Networksand the first phase of the project is scheduled for completion in 2021. In April, the WSJ first reported the company’s plans for this cable.

This is the company’s third private cable after Dunant between Europe and the U.S., and Curie, which spans between the U.S. and Chile. In addition, Google is also a partner in a number of cable consortiums that operate cables that span the globe…Google also stresses that this new cable is able to carry about 20 times the capacity of the last cable that was built to serve this region. The cable will feature numerous branching units that it can then use to connect lines to other countries along the way. The first branch will connect the cable to Lagos, Nigeria. Other branches will follow in the future.

Unlike some of its competitors, Google does not currently operate any data centers on the African continent and has yet to share any plans to do so. This makes fast connections to Europe even more of a necessity, though it’s also possible that Google is putting this new cable in place to prepare for a data center launch in South Africa, for example.

Read more about this development at TechCrunch.

Is Google untouchable now? Is it so big and so multinational with so many interests that its investments shape governments, politics and trade? Is there anything left of the company’s core that makes it American or is it an entity unto itself…and as such what participation in American economic and legal protections should it continue to enjoy? With Apple deciding to invest in manufacturing its flagship computer in China yesterday, Americans need to examine whether these companies should be treated like countries, complete with ambassadors and trade negotiators, or, if they are just too big and need to be broken up into smaller, more manageable entities. What are your thoughts on this? Talk back to me on Twitter at Weym0 (that’s a zero at the end.)

Mariella Moon: Five automakers back Toyota’s and Softbank’s self-driving business

Tech companies and automakers have been setting differences aside and merging forces in hopes of getting themselves a piece of the self-driving pie as early as possible. Late last year, Toyota and Softbank teamed up to establish a joint venture called Monet. Now, their partnership is getting a boost from five new allies: Japanese automakers Isuzu, Suzuki, Subaru, Daihatsu (Toyota’s compact car division) and Mazda. The companies are joining Honda and Hino Motors, other automakers that also chose to back the project.

The five automakers are investing 57.10 million yen ($530,620) each into the venture in return for a 2 percent stake. That means Monet now has $26.6 million in capital, which it will use to develop on-demand self-driving shuttle services in Japan. Monet’s ultimate goal is to roll out a variety of services based on Toyota’s e-Palette electric vehicle, though. Businesses could use e-Palette for meal deliveries, as mobile hotels or even as mobile offices. According to Reuters, services that use the e-Palette could roll out by 2023 — we’ll most likely see the actual vehicle, which is still just a concept, before that happens.

Other stories of interest I spotted today on Medium:

Colin Horgan: We Already Know What Our Data Is Worth

New legislation would require tech companies like Facebook and Google to disclose the value of users’ data, but we don’t need laws to put a price on our autonomy

You can find this story in OneZero magazine.

Will Oremus: Amazon Is Watching

The Internet giant is wiring homes, neighborhoods, and cities with cameras and microphones, and powering the nation’s intelligence services. Are we sure we can trust it?

This story also is at OneZero magazine.


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Your Tech Moment™

Commentary on technology, telecom & security in our information age

Weyman Holton

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author of “The Dirty Deeds Playbook” out now in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Your Tech Moment™

Commentary on technology, telecom & security in our information age

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