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204 articles
  • Why AI Needs a Genome

    AI could learn and adapt like humans with algorithms that work like genes.

  • AI Researchers Fight Noise by Turning to Biology

    Tiny amounts of artificial noise can fool neural networks, but not humans. Some researchers are looking to neuroscience for a fix.

  • Why AI Needs a Genome

    AI could learn and adapt like humans with algorithms that work like genes.

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    David Attenborough’s Life in Color

    New technology enables filmmakers to capture how animals use color like never before.

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    Reports of a Baleful Internet Are Greatly Exaggerated

    Our digital technologies can in fact be cognitive aids.

  • Same or Different? The Question Flummoxes Neural Networks

    For all their triumphs, AI systems can’t seem to generalize the concepts of “same” and “different.” Without that, researchers worry, the quest to create truly intelligent machines may be hopeless.

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    My 3 Greatest Revelations

    The author on writing his new book, “The Ascent of Information.”

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    We Already Know How to Stop SolarWinds-Like Hacks

    Last year, hackers made headlines after they breached SolarWinds, a software company that specializes in network monitoring software. About 33,000 organizations, including the Pentagon, the U.S. State Department, and some intelligence agencies, use Orion, one of SolarWinds’ products. Orion was designed to monitor the users’ networks to make sure they were functioning properly and, ironically, […]

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    The Intelligent Life of Droids

    If robots can be devious, self-righteous, and expressive, why not sentient?

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    Toys Are the Future of Philosophy

    Playthings shouldn’t confine kids but allow them to ask, What if?

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    Does Social Media Poison Everything?

    The argument that we have the power to deal with the dangers of social media on our own can come across as cruelly individualistic tech-apologia.Photo Illustration by Victor Moussa / Shutterstock The power of platforms like Facebook and Google has escaped the control of the optimistic technocrats at their helm. And it is wreaking havoc in […]

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    Build Your Own Artificial Neural Network. It’s Easy!

    The first artificial neural networks weren’t abstractions inside a computer, but actual physical systems made of whirring motors and big bundles of wire. Here I’ll describe how you can build one for yourself using SnapCircuits, a kid’s electronics kit. I’ll also muse about how to build a network that works optically using a webcam. And […]

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    Welcome to the Next Level of Bullshit

    The language algorithm GPT-3 continues our descent into a post-truth world.

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    The Bias in the Machine

    Why facial recognition has led to false arrests.

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    The Contagion Detective

    Adam Kucharski explains how diseases like COVID-19 and misinformation spread.

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    The Damage We’re Not Attending To

    Scientists who study complex systems offer solutions to the pandemic.

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    Could an AI Be Immortal?

    Data is under attack and uploads his brain. Does he survive?

  • Jones_HERO

    Don’t Fear the Robot

    I invented Roomba and assure you, robots won’t take over the world.

  • Ord_HERO

    Superintelligent, Amoral, and Out of Control

    AI is no longer playing games. Are we prepared?

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    Why I Built a Dumb Cell Phone with a Rotary Dial

    You too can build a phone that feels good to use. Some soldering required.

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    Gaia Will Soon Belong to the Cyborgs

    The father of the Gaia principle on the coming age of hyperintelligence.

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    The Forest Spirits of Today Are Computers

    We’ve made an artificially panpsychic world, where technology and nature are one.

  • What Google Could Learn from a Fruit Fly

    By tapping into life’s algorithms, scientists are finding elegant solutions to some of the hardest problems in computer science.

  • The Quest to Mimic Nature’s Trickiest Colors

    An artist struggles to reproduce the iridescence of the natural world.

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    This Test for Machine Consciousness Has an Audience Problem

    The audience problem highlights a longstanding worry about robot consciousness—that outward behavior, however sophisticated, would never be enough to prove that the lights are on, so to speak. A well-designed machine could always hypothetically fake it.Photograph by Paul Biryukov / Shutterstock Someday, humanity might build conscious machines—machines that not only seem to think and feel, […]

  • The Selfish Dataome

    Does the data we produce serve us, or vice versa?

  • Clayton_HERO

    How to Predict Extreme Weather

    Climate science is forging a more perfect union between humans and machines.

  • How Genes Refract Chance

    The geneticist Siddhartha Mukherjee discusses the influence of modern genetics on our ideas of chance and fate.

  • Google and IBM Clash Over Milestone Quantum Computing Experiment

    Today Google announced that it achieved “quantum supremacy.” Its chief quantum computing rival, IBM, said it hasn’t. The disagreement hinges on what the term really means.

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    Omniviolence Is Coming and the World Isn’t Ready

    Emerging bio-, nano-, and cyber-technologies are enabling criminals to target anyone anywhere and, due to democratization, increasingly at scale.Screengrab via The Future of Life Institute/YouTube In The Future of Violence, Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum discuss a disturbing hypothetical scenario. A lone actor in Nigeria, “home to a great deal of spamming and online fraud […]

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    Physicists Say Google’s Quantum Computer Is Still Far From Practical

    Google and company claim that their quantum computer can do in 200 seconds what it would take a supercomputer 10,000 years to do.Illustration by plotplot / Shutterstock News on the quantum physics grapevine, Frankfurt Institute theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder tells me, is that Google will announce something special next week: Their paper on achieving quantum […]

  • Nobel Awarded for Lithium-Ion Batteries and Portable Power

    John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing lithium-ion batteries, "the hidden workhorses of the mobile era."

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    Would You Survive a Merger with AI?

    The cost of brain enhancement may be your identity.

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    Making a Future Among the Stars

    Elon Musk has helped to advance self-driving electric cars and an implantable brain-machine interface, but when he greeted the crowd in Boca Chica, he said, gesturing at Starship, “This is the most inspiring thing I’ve ever seen.”Photograph by SpaceX In Boca Chica, Texas, presenting SpaceX’s latest prototype vehicle, Starship, Elon Musk remembered how, 11 years […]

  • Computers and Humans ‘See’ Differently. Does It Matter?

    In some ways, machine vision is superior to human vision. In other ways, it may never catch up.

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    The Real Differences Between Human and Artificial Intelligence

    Artificial Intelligence, it seems, is now everywhere. Text translation, speech recognition, book recommendations, even your spam filter is now “artificially intelligent.” But just what do scientists mean with “artificial intelligence,” and what is artificial about it? Artificial intelligence is a term that was coined in the 1980s, and today’s research on the topic has many […]

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    The Storytelling Computer

    Artificial intelligence needs to think like the mythical trickster.

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    Who Will Design the Future?

    AI will be staggeringly diverse. Its developers should be, too.

  • The Ambiguous Colors of Nanotechnology

    Kate Nichols’ nanoparticle paints have changed how she sees color.

  • Quantum Supremacy Is Coming: Here’s What You Should Know

    Researchers are getting close to building a quantum computer that can perform tasks a classical computer can’t. Here’s what the milestone will mean.

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    WeChat Is Watching

    Living in China with the app that knows everything about me.

  • This Iconoclast Injected Life Into Artificial Body Parts

    Laura Niklason recognized that synthetic organs can't grow without mechanical stress.

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    Here’s How We’ll Know an AI Is Conscious

    Zombies are supposed to be capable of asking any question about the nature of experience. It’s worth wondering, though, how a person or machine devoid of experience could reflect on experience it doesn’t have.Photograph by Ars Electronica / Flickr The Australian philosopher David Chalmers famously asked whether “philosophical zombies” are conceivable—people who behave like you […]

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    Yuval Noah Harari Is Worried About Our Souls

    The big-data makeover of humanity could be a recipe for disaster.

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    Why Robot Brains Need Symbols

    We’ll need both deep learning and symbol manipulation to build AI.

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    The New Tech of Relationships

    Three stories of our new alliance with technology.

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    Dear iPhone—It Was Just Physical, and Now It’s Over

    I can’t count the number of times I pulled out my phone just for the feeling of unlocking the screen and swiping through applications, whether out of comfort—like a baby sucking her thumb—or boredom—like a teenager at school, tapping his fingers on a desk.Photograph by cunaplus / Shutterstock As a kid, I’d sometimes try to […]

  • Why Do We Get Cyber-Sick?

    The impact of perceived motion.

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    The $100 Million Bot Heist

    The story of the world’s most-wanted cybercriminal.

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    We Need an FDA For Algorithms

    UK mathematician Hannah Fry on the promise and danger of an AI world.

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    The Selfish Dataome

    Does the data we produce serve us, or vice versa?

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    The Robot Economy Will Run on Blockchain

    What finance will look like when it is controlled by machines.

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    The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood

    Earlier this year, Dan Doctoroff, the C.E.O. of Sidewalk Labs, Google’s sibling company under Alphabet, answered a question about what his company “actually does” during a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session, replying, “The short answer is: We want to build the first truly 21st-century city.” Quayside, a Toronto neighborhood the company is developing in partnership […]

  • We Need to Save Ignorance From AI

    In an age of all-knowing algorithms, how do we choose not to know?

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    Should You Get an AI Nanny for Your Child?

    Mattel’s AI nanny, called Aristotle, recently gained the notorious distinction of being subject to a bipartisan protest in the US Congress. Plus, there was a petition against it with over 15,000 signatures. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which organized the petition, argued that Aristotle is a consumerist ploy. It “attempts to replace the care, […]

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    A Better Way to Cancel Noise

    The other day I stepped into my apartment elevator and saw a neighbor of mine joking around with a construction worker. “You know what you do with these guys?” my neighbor said to me. He grabbed the construction worker by his bright-colored vest and pretended to shove him out the door. For the past few […]

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    How Artificial Intelligence Can Supercharge the Search for New Particles

    Reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine‘s Abstractions blog. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) smashes a billion pairs of protons together each second. Occasionally the machine may rattle reality enough to have a few of those collisions generate something that’s never been seen before. But because these events are by their nature a surprise, physicists don’t know exactly […]

  • How Artificial Intelligence Can Supercharge the Search for New Particles

    In the hunt for new fundamental particles, physicists have always had to make assumptions about how the particles will behave. New machine learning algorithms don’t.

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    Blood Spatter Will Tell

    How the science of blood spatter forensics is evolving.

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    Scavenging Russia’s Rocket Graveyard Is Dangerous and Profitable

    This might be one of the most remote places on earth, little accessible by road, but its peace is routinely broken by the oldest, largest and busiest spaceport in the world: the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Photograph by Alex Zelenko / Wikicommons The Altai mountain region of Central Asia is a rugged and remote place. Right in […]

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    We Need to Save Ignorance From AI

    In an age of all-knowing algorithms, how do we choose not to know?

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    Desert Air Will Give Us Water

    A partial solution to the problem of punishing droughts may be to snatch water from the air, Dune-style.Photograph by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center / Flickr Last year, after a punishing four-year drought, California lifted emergency water-scarcity measures in all but four counties. Residents could sigh in relief but not without resignation. “This drought emergency […]

  • Artificial Neural Nets Grow Brainlike Navigation Cells

    Faced with a navigational challenge, neural networks spontaneously evolved units resembling the grid cells that help living animals find their way.

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    Will Robot Surgeons Ever Be Creative?

    The idea that a surgical robot could ever substitute for the real thing is “a real stretch,” says Ken Goldberg, a distinguished U.C. Berkeley roboticist and researcher.Photograph by Elnur / Shutterstock You die at the beginning of Mass Effect 2. It’s 2183, and you—Commander Shepard—have just saved every space-faring species in the Milky Way from […]

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    Dear iPhone—It Was Just Physical, and Now It’s Over

    I can’t count the number of times I pulled out my phone just for the feeling of unlocking the screen and swiping through applications, whether out of comfort—like a baby sucking her thumb—or boredom—like a teenager at school, tapping his fingers on a desk.Photograph by cunaplus / Shutterstock As a kid, I’d sometimes try to […]

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    The Case Against an Autonomous Military

    The potential harm of AIs deliberately designed to kill in warfare is much more pressing than self-driving car accidents.Photograph by Airman 1st Class James Thompson / U.S. Air Force In 2016, a Mercedes-Benz executive was quoted as saying that the company’s self-driving autos would put the safety of its own occupants first. This comment brought […]

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    Will This “Neural Lace” Brain Implant Help Us Compete with AI?

    Smarter artificial intelligence is certainly being developed, but how far along are we on producing a neural lace?Photograph by g.tec medical engineering GmbH / Flickr Solar-powered self-driving cars, reusable space ships, Hyperloop transportation, a mission to colonize Mars: Elon Musk is hell-bent on turning these once-far-fetched fantasies into reality. But none of these technologies has […]

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    Is Facebook Really Scarier Than Google?

    On Twitter, in a thread that went viral, François Chollet, an A.I. software engineer at Google, argued, “Facebook is, in effect, in control of your political beliefs and your worldview.”Photograph by Joe Penniston / Flickr Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and C.E.O. of Facebook, admitted recently his company knew, in 2015, that the data firm Cambridge […]

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    Machine Behavior Needs to Be an Academic Discipline

    Why should studying AI behavior be restricted to those who make AI?

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    Scary AI Is More “Fantasia” Than “Terminator”

    Ex-Googler Nate Soares on AI’s alignment problem.

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    This Neural Net Hallucinates Sheep

    If you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably interacted with a neural network. They’re a type of machine learning algorithm that’s used for everything from language translation to finance modeling. One of their specialties is image recognition. Several companies—including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook—have their own algorithms for labeling photos. But image recognition algorithms […]

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    The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood

    An Alphabet subsidiary is planning to build a futuristic neighborhood, not out of concrete and steel, but wood—and wood is looking good.Photograph by Daici Ano / Flickr Last month, Dan Doctoroff, the C.E.O. of Sidewalk Labs, Google’s sibling company under Alphabet, answered a question about what his company “actually does” during a Reddit “Ask Me […]

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    Waiting For the Robot Rembrandt

    What needs to happen for artificial intelligence to make fine art.

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    The Antidote to “Black Mirror” Virtual Reality

    We will take VR far, in creative and unanticipated ways, but it will also be mundane, contrary to the bleak alarm peddled by Black Mirror.Image courtesy Netflix / YouTube Both of Black Mirror’s virtual-reality episodes, “USS Callister” this season and “Playtest” in last one’s, presume VR users will be alone, immobile, and unaware of their […]

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    How Darknet Sellers Build Trust

    The Amazon for drug dealing is built around user reviews.

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    Are Algorithms Building the New Infrastructure of Racism?

    How we use big data can reinforce our worst biases—or help fix them.

  • The Overlooked Link Between Two of This Year’s Nobel Prizes

    To better understand the molecules described by the latest prize in medicine, we will need the technique recognized by the latest prize in chemistry.

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    Why a Hedge Fund Started a Video Game Competition

    The chief technology officer of one of the world’s largest hedge funds talks data.

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    What Tech Can Learn from the Fruit Fly’s Search Algorithm

    Scientists are starting to understand that search powers much of the natural world, too.Image by Intelligent Product Solutions / YouTube Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Verse 7:7 from the Gospel of Matthew is generally considered to be a comment on […]

  • Ideology Is the Original Augmented Reality

    How we fill gaps in our everyday experiences.

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    Ideology Is the Original Augmented Reality

    How we fill gaps in our everyday experiences.

  • Artificial Intelligence Learns to Learn Entirely on Its Own

    A new version of AlphaGo needed no human instruction to figure out how to clobber the best Go player in the world—itself.

  • Ultra-Powerful Radio Bursts May Be Getting a Cosmic Boost

    Repeating radio bursts are among the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. A new theory explores how some of their puzzling properties can be explained by galactic lenses made of plasma.

  • One-Way Salesman Finds Fast Path Home

    The real-world version of the famous “traveling salesman problem” finally gets a good-enough solution.

  • Supercool Protein Imaging Gets the Nobel Prize

    This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry goes to researchers who made it possible to see proteins and other biomolecules at an atomic level of detail.

  • Nobel Prize Awarded for Biological Clock Discoveries

    Three U.S. biologists share the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their research into the molecular mechanism that drives circadian rhythm.

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    The Last Invention of Man

    How AI might take over the world.

  • The Best Burger Place Is a Lab

    Growing meat cell by cell is better for your wallet and the world.

  • How to Obfuscate

    What misinformation on Twitter and radar have in common.

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    Modern Media Is a DoS Attack on Your Free Will

    How the attention economy is subverting our decision-making and our democracy.

  • Why We Need More Intellectually Promiscuous Scientists

    Inventions in one discipline can build on—and spur—basic research in many others, often unwittingly.

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    Google Thought I Was a Man

    How Facebook and Google build a picture of who you really are.

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    Why A.I. Is Just Not Funny

    Although A.I. robots can pick up on jokes, they have a lot to learn about telling them.Queen Mary University of London / YouTube In the 2004 film I, Robot, Detective Del Spooner asks an A.I. named Sonny: “Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?” Sonny responds: […]

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    The Catch 22 of Hacktivism

    Are hackers who expose the military serving it?

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    When Driver and Car Share the Same Brain

    An artist teams with an automaker to counter driverless cars with neuroscience.

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    The Moon Is Full of Money

    Capitalism in space.

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    How Information Got Re-Invented

    The story behind the birth of the information age.

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    Make Concrete Roman Again!

    The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder can be charmingly self-deprecating. He attempted, in the 1st century A.D., to curate all ancient knowledge in his Natural History, yet he described its 37 volumes to his close friend’s son, Titus, the Emperor of Rome, as having “such inferior importance.” To Pliny, they did “not admit of the […]

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    How the Oil Pipeline Began

    Pipeline fights have a longer history than you think.

  • The Ultimate Clean Energy Strategy

    Could nanoscale catalysts bring us inexpensive fuels and fertilizers—made from air and sunlight—that do not contribute to climate change?

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    How to Obfuscate

    What misinformation on Twitter and radar have in common.

  • Why Quantum Computers Might Not Break Cryptography

    A new paper claims that a common digital security system could be tweaked to withstand attacks even from a powerful quantum computer.

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    Your Robot Car Should Ignore You

    Some research suggests that cars would be safer with no involvement from humans at all.

  • Your Robot Car Should Ignore You

    Some research suggests that cars would be safer with no involvement from humans at all.

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    Do You Want AI to Be Conscious?

    Consciousness is an important function for us. Why not for our machines?

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    We Need Conscious Robots

    How introspection and imagination make robots better.

  • Man or Machine?

    Three alternatives to measure the human-likeness of a handshake model in a Turing-like test.

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    New Exoskeletons Will Harness the Subtle Anatomy of Human Balance

    The bones and bodies of the Kenyan women had adjusted to perfectly support the head weight in the most energy efficient manner, aligning in an ideal formation to keep the weight off the muscles.Photograph by Kim Steele / Getty In the 1980s, a bioengineer named Norm Heglund was doing field work in Kenya, hoping to […]

  • Common Sense, the Turing Test, and the Quest for Real AI

    The long tail and the limits to training.

  • Last Words: Computational Linguistics and Deep Learning

    A look at the importance of Natural Language Processing.

  • How Call of Duty Is Helping in the Fight Against Cancer

    The technological advances employed in video games can serve another purpose.

  • How Big Data Can Help Fight Cancer

    The more data we can draw from, the more likely we’ll find each individual cancer’s Achilles heel.

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    Virtual Reality Poses the Same Riddles as the Cosmic Multiverse

    Alt-realities, whether cosmic or VR, would undermine the laws of physics.

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    Computers Beat Humans at Poker. Next Up: Everything Else?

      Over the span of 20 days early this year, artificial intelligence encountered a major test of how well it can tackle problems in the real world. A program called Libratus took on four of the best poker players in the country, at a tournament at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were playing […]

  • The Man Who Kicked Off the Biotech Revolution

    The $325 billion biotech industry began with the discovery of an enzyme to slice DNA.

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    How Classical Cryptography Will Survive Quantum Computers

    Quantum Lab: Scientists are fabricating quantum photonic circuits—consisting of waveguides and other elements—to manipulate single photons for future quantum communications and processing.Oak Ridge National Laboratory / Flickr Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, certainly raised the profile of quantum computing a few notches last year, when he gamely—if vaguely1—described it for a press conference. But […]

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    The Secret of Buckminister Fuller’s World-Changing Ideas Was Serendipity

    In his 2016 book, You Belong to the Universe, Jonathon Keats sets out to release Buckminister Fuller from “the zany sci-fi designs that made him notorious, and rescue him from the groupies who have impounded him as a cultish prophet.” Keats, a writer and artist who whips up his own world-changing ideas through trickster gallery […]

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    How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games

    The responsibilities and challenges of programmed luck.

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    How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games

    The responsibilities and challenges of programmed luck.

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    Why Did Obama Just Honor Bug-free Software?

    The Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor, is usually associated with famous awardees—people like Bruce Springsteen, Stephen Hawking, and Sandra Day O’Connor. So as a computer scientist, I was thrilled to see one of this year’s awards go to a lesser-known pioneer: one Margaret Hamilton. You might call Hamilton the founding mother of […]

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    Westworld Is Strikingly Real: AI Could Be Conscious and Unpredictable

    Westworld recently wrapped its first season with a few stunning twists and a stunning statistic: With a 12-million-viewer average, it was the most-watched first season of an original HBO show in the network’s history. Westworld concerns a perverse theme park, styled in the fashion of the American Old West. The park’s “hosts,” artificially intelligent beings […]

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    Archeologists Are Planning to Sink This Ship Dozens of Times

    In 1967, a team of archaeologists led by Michael Katzev dove to the bottom of the churning Aegean Sea. They were tipped off by a sponge diver who, about two years earlier, spotted something unusual a mile offshore of Kyrenia harbor, in Cyprus: a lumpy mound of pottery covered by a fuzzy layer of sediment. […]

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    Fake Images Are Getting Harder and Harder to Detect

    Images and videos usually serve as the most concrete, the most unarguable, and the most honest evidence of experiences and events we cannot witness ourselves. This is often the case in court, in the news, in scientific research, and in our daily lives. We trust images much more deeply and instinctively than we do words. […]

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    How Autism Shaped the Modern Conversation

    On Facebook, iPhone messenger, and What’s App, conversation is often silent and devoid of body language. Emotions are condensed to icons on a screen: a happy face, a wink, or a kiss blown to a loved one through LTE and pixels. These emoticons (a portmanteau of “emotion” and “icon”) and emojis (everything else from crocodiles […]

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    The Fundamental Limits of Machine Learning

    A few months ago, my aunt sent her colleagues an email with the subject, “Math Problem! What is the answer?” It contained a deceptively simple puzzle: She thought her solution was obvious. Her colleagues, though, were sure their solution was correct—and the two didn’t match. Was the problem with one of their answers, or with […]

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    The Limits of Formal Learning, or Why Robots Can’t Dance

    The 1980s at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory seemed to outsiders like a golden age, but inside, David Chapman could already see that winter was coming. As a member of the lab, Chapman was the first researcher to apply the mathematics of computational complexity theory to robot planning and to show mathematically […]

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    Is Artificial Intelligence Permanently Inscrutable?

    Despite new biology-like tools, some insist interpretation is impossible.

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    Will This “Neural Lace” Brain Implant Help Us Compete with AI?

    Solar-powered self-driving cars, reusable space ships, Hyperloop transportation, a mission to colonize Mars: Elon Musk is hell-bent on turning these once-far-fetched fantasies into reality. But none of these technologies has made him as leery as artificial intelligence. Earlier this summer at Code Conference 2016, Musk stated publicly that given the current rate of A.I. advancement, […]

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    The Unexpected Humanity of Robot Soccer

    Robots competing in open, physical environments produce familiar behaviors.

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    Get Ready to Be Identified by Your Ear

    Last year, the United States Customs and Border Protection rolled out a recognition pilot program that uses biometric recognition tools like face and iris scanners. The program will snag “imposters” using a fake passport at airports, and what’s more, reduce wait times at security checkpoints. But what might identify individuals even more conclusively and speed […]

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    Politicians Need to Understand This Computer Science Concept Better

    I have an idea that would keep 100 percent of foreign-born terrorists out of the United States. Not only that, it’s far simpler than any presidential candidate’s proposals. All we have to do is this: Never let anybody in. Most of us find this idea ludicrous, of course, and rightly so. Keeping out terrorists is […]

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    Are Fantasy Sports Really Gambling?

    Fantasy sports are more skill-based than real ones.

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    The Man Who Designed Ghost Armies and Opera Houses

    The storied career of the centenarian and acoustician, Leo Beranek.

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    Fireworks Displays Can’t Include a Perfect Red, White, and Blue

    Mother Nature can be a handful when she wants to be,” says John Conkling, the former technical director of the American Pyrotechnics Association and a professor emeritus of chemistry at Washington College. Except he used a stronger, more colorful word than “handful.” When it comes to fireworks, “she just doesn’t want to give you that […]

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    Why Won’t This Inspirational Email Chain Letter Leave Me Alone?

    A few times each year, a particular chain letter pops up in my inbox. “We’re starting a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange,” it starts, exhorting me to send a “favorite text / verse / meditation” to a previous participant in the chain, and to forward the message to another 20 friends. In my personal […]

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    Traffic Wouldn’t Jam If Drivers Behaved Like Ants

    As someone so flummoxed by traffic I wrote a book about it, I have a near-clinical aversion to vehicular congestion. My global default strategy is to simply drive as little as possible, but there are times when I simply must put foot to gas pedal. Like many, I have become increasingly dependent on the Waze […]

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    The Perfect Wave Is Coming

    Surfers have dreamt it—now engineers are delivering.

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    How Facebook Fuels Relationship Anxiety

    John Bowlby, born in 1907 London to an upper class family, had little parental love. His mother believed (as was common at the time) kindness would spoil children, and his father, a knighted surgeon, left home to fight in the Great War; his primary caregiver, a nursemaid named Minnie, who did love him, was let […]

  • Big Data_HERO

    How Big Data Creates False Confidence

    If I claimed that Americans have gotten more self-centered lately, you might just chalk me up as a curmudgeon, prone to good-ol’-days whining. But what if I said I could back that claim up by analyzing 150 billion words of text? A few decades ago, evidence on such a scale was a pipe dream. Today, […]

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    Matchmaking Algorithms Are Unraveling the Causes of Rare Genetic Diseases

    Jill Viles, an Iowa mother, was born with a rare type of muscular dystrophy. The symptoms weren’t really noticeable until preschool, when she began to fall while walking. She saw doctors, but they couldn’t diagnose her or supply a remedy. When she left for college, she was 5-foot-3 and weighed just 87 pounds. How she […]

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    The Most Important Object In Computer Graphics History Is This Teapot

    Let’s play a game. I’ll show you a picture and a couple videos—just watch the first five seconds or so—and you figure out what they have in common. Ready? Here we go: Did you spot it? Each of them depicts the exact same object: a shiny, slightly squashed-looking teapot. You may not have thought much of […]

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    Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot

    Meet Xiaoice. She’s empathic, caring, and always available—just not human.

  • chatbot_v6_no-intro

    Your Next New Best Friend Might Be a Robot

    Meet Xiaoice. She’s empathic, caring, and always available—just not human.

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    Ingenious: Ken Perlin

    We sit down with the virtual reality expert.

  • Winters_HERO

    The Space Shuttle’s Last Launch

    A portrait of the NASA program’s last days.

  • LaFarge_HERO

    The Deep Space of Digital Reading

    Why we shouldn’t worry about leaving print behind.

  • Vanderbilt_HERO-static_anim

    These Tricks Make Virtual Reality Feel Real

    Realistic digital spaces need delusions as much as they need detail.

  • Hsu_HERO

    Don’t Worry, Smart Machines Will Take Us With Them

    Why human intelligence and AI will co-evolve.

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    What Searchable Speech Will Do To You

    Will recording every spoken word help or hurt us?

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    Artificial Intelligence Is Already Weirdly Inhuman

    What kind of world is our code creating?

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    Fallingwater: A Building That Bonds With Nature and Dances With Time

    The water flowing down the stream’s banks sends a soft and consistent murmur through the forest. The flow, however, is far from continuous. At one point the cool water swirls in eddies and gathers in still pools, but then—almost accidentally—it surges forward and slips quickly over the ledge. It crashes loudly, bubbling up in a […]

  • Leonard_HERO-1

    To Save California, Read “Dune”

    Survival on a fictional desert planet has a lesson for the drought-stricken state.

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    Ingenious: John Ochsendorf

    Meet the architectural rebel who champions ancient engineers.

  • Humphries_HERO_4

    Why We Should Let the Pantheon Crack

    Modern architects have a lot to learn from the sound engineering of the ancients.

  • messy wires hero

    Why Our Genome and Technology Are Both Riddled With “Crawling Horrors”

    “Add little to little and there will be a big pile.” —Ovid When we build complex technologies, despite our best efforts and our desire for clean logic, they often end up being far messier than we intend. They often end up kluges: inelegant solutions that work just well enough. And a reason they end up being […]

  • Gerovitch_HERO-2

    How the Computer Got Its Revenge on the Soviet Union

    Condemned as a capitalist tool, the computer would help expose the USSR’s weakness.

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    Will You Be Able to Read this Article in 1,000 Years?

    If you ask Anthony Weiner, digital records—especially those on the Internet—can seem impossibly hard to get rid of. When a picture or document is reduced to a series of 1s and 0s, it becomes transmissible, reproducible, downloadable, and storable. You can’t burn digital books, and ideas like cloud computing make it possible to back up […]

  • HAL 9000

    Will Humans Be Able to Control Computers That Are Smarter Than Us?

    The ominous eye of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey If humans go on to create artificial intelligence, will it present a significant danger to us? Several technical luminaries have been open and clear with respect to this possibility: Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has equated it to “summoning the demon”; Stephen Hawking warns […]

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    The Brilliant “Baloney Slicer” That Started the Digital Age

    In the early 1950s, the U.S. Air Force Supply Depot in Ohio was looking for a faster way to store and fetch information from its sizable inventory. They had 50,000 items in their records and wanted instant access to each one of them. The dominant storage technologies of the time—punch cards, magnetic tape and magnetic […]

  • Alan Turing sculpture Bletchley Park Stephen Kettle

    Goodbye, Turing Test; Bring on the Turing Decathlon

    A statue of Alan Turing by sculptor Stephen Kettle made entirely of pieces of slate. The statue depicts Turing working on an Enigma machine, which the Nazis used to encode messages, and is located at Bletchley Park, the British-government site where Turing and colleagues did their code-breaking. Photo by Richard Gillin via Flickr How many […]

  • Popkin_HERO

    Moore’s Law Is About to Get Weird

    Never mind tablet computers. Wait till you see bubbles and slime mold.

  • Wright_HERO_2

    The Future of the Web Is 100 Years Old

    In the debate between structure and openness, 19th-century ideas are making a comeback.

  • Gefter_HERO.

    The Man Who Tried to Redeem the World with Logic

    Walter Pitts rose from the streets to MIT, but couldn’t escape himself.

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    Ingenious: Ken Goldberg

    Creative robots, the Kurzweil fallacy, and what it means to be human.

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    The Long, Hard Quest to Create Digital Smells

    Of all of the wondrous feats accomplished by Willy Wonka in his candy factory, the most impressive may have been wedging an entire meal into just one unassuming stick of gum: Upon popping it in your mouth and chewing, you’d first taste tomato soup, then roast beef and baked potato, and finally blueberry pie and […]

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    Why the Chess Computer Deep Blue Played Like a Human

    Randomness may be key to both human and computer creativity.

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    How Crowdsourcing Turned On Me

    One team of strangers helped me with the Darpa Shredder Challenge. Another sabotaged me.

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    New Football Helmets Take a Page From Nuclear-Plant Safety

    These photos show the difference between a healthy brain (left) and one with CTE (right). The tau proteins in all the samples were stained and appear brown.BU CTE Center In 2012, Tim Shaw was still living the rarefied, enviable life of an NFL player. He’d played in college, in Penn State’s storied program, then got […]

  • Soccer_HERO

    Why the World Cup Suddenly Has So Many Goals

    NASA engineer Rabindra Mehta explains the aerodynamics of the World Cup soccer ball.

  • what we loose

    What We Lose When Film Cameras Change to Digital Ones

      This is part two of a three-part series about the movie industry’s switch to digital cameras and what is lost, and gained, in the process. Part one, on the traditional approach to filming movies and the birth of digital, ran yesterday; part three runs tomorrow. Most people have an intuitive understanding that, for most of […]

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    Are Digital Cameras Changing the Nature of Movies?

    A landmark use of deep focus in film: The young Charles Foster Kane—in the background, but still in focus—is sent away by his poor parents in Colorado to live with a wealthy banker in New York.Mercury Productions / RKO Radio Pictures This is part one of a three-part series about the movie industry’s switch to […]

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    The Most Symmetrical Objects in the World

    If you’ve ever tried to give yourself a haircut, you know just how hard it is to make something precisely symmetrical. We value symmetry so highly in part because it’s really hard to achieve. Here are five of the most symmetrical objects humans have ever crafted, and why they were so hard to make. 1. […]

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    Meet the Father of Digital Life

    This maverick forerunner of artificial life and animation remains largely unknown.

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    Your House Is Waiting to Be Turned Into a Projection Screen

    The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, illuminated by Obscura Digital’s projectionsObscura Digital The silver screen. Movie screenings. The big and small screens. Ever since 1879, when Eadweard Muybridge used the world’s first movie projector to display a loop of 13 images of a galloping horse, the preferred place to show motion pictures has […]

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    Saving Suburbia

    Shouldn’t neighborhoods be as diverse as the swamps and forests that surround them?

  • Billings_HERO

    The Termite and the Architect

    Animal homes resist our understanding.

  • Auerbach_HERO_3

    A.I. Has Grown Up and Left Home

    It matters only that we think, not how we think.

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    Preserving Yesterday’s Tech to Get a Better Grasp on Today’s

    In 2009, more than 47 million computers in the U.S. were ready for “end-of-life management”—so hopelessly outmoded that no reasonable amount of refurbishment could redeem them. Market-driven innovation, thus far hewing to the demanding prediction of Moore’s law, means that every few months, the gadgets in our pockets and on our desktops are pushed closer […]

  • Upton_HERO

    Our Nuclear Waste Is a Goldmine

    Technology for generating power from spent uranium hits policy barriers.

  • Brown_HERO

    Facebook Cools Off

    Supercomputer centers slash excess electricity as smaller ones try to follow.

  • duoQA_HERO

    Science Gets Down With Miles Davis and Bernini

    Analyzing music and sculpture in the digital age.

  • Martin_HERO

    “Pop, Pop, Pop.” She Heard Her Brain in Action

    Brain-computer interfaces are getting very sensitive.

  • Brown_HERO

    Teaching Me Softly

    Machine learning is teaching us the secret to teaching.

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    Planes, Trains, & Automobiles. And Death.

    If you’ve ridden in a car piloted by a young or inexperienced driver lately, chances are you’ve had an unwelcome epiphany. When driving your own car every day, navigating familiar streets, the vehicle is an extension of your body and your home, a wee castle on wheels that protects you, obeys you, and gets you […]

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    The Uncertainty Baked Into NSA Surveillance—and the Internet

    Over the weekend, more details emerged about the U.S. federal government’s no-longer-secret digital-surveillance program code-named PRISM. The project gave the National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies unprecedented access to data, like emails and chats, going through popular services owned by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and other Internet giants. After this additional information about PRISM seeped […]

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    Who Owns Your Identity?

    When the digital media pioneer and visionary Jaron Lanier signs his new book, Who Owns The Future?, he circles the “Who” and draws an arrow to the reader’s name, achieving a visual haiku of his message: Each of us, by name, generates a great amount of profit for the Internet’s corporations as they use our […]

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    Will We Reverse-Engineer the Human Brain Within 50 Years?

    Gary Marcus can’t understand why people are shocked when he calls the brain a computer. The 43-year-old professor of psychology at New York University, author of Kluge, about the haphazard evolution of the brain, and a leading researcher in how children acquire language, grins and says it’s a generational thing. “I know there’s a philosophical school of […]

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    Ask a Cyborg

    Profile subject Neil Harbisson is coming to Twitter to talk about merging with technology.

  • fsr_beaver_HERO

    You Didn’t Build That: The Best Animal Engineers

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

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    You Didn’t Build That FONT WEIGHT BUSTED

    If an intelligent alien species landed on the small bit of galactic rock that we call home, they might get out of their spaceships, have a look around, and decide that we—that is, our species—are the master builders on our planet. There would be plenty of reasons to think so. We build bridges spanning enormous […]

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    Joys of Noise

    The reliability of some technologies depends on just the right amount of randomness.

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    The Coin Toss and the Love Triangle

    There are two flavors of uncertainty in our lives. Math helps with both.

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    Artificial Emotions

    How long until a robot cries?

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    Encounters with the Posthuman

    As bodies meld with machines, are we leaving ourselves behind?

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    Encounters with the Posthuman

    As bodies meld with machines, are we leaving ourselves behind?

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    How Long Until a Robot Cries?

    Identifying the mechanics of emotions.