Connect with us

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Google DeepMind wants to define what counts as artificial general intelligence

AGI, or artificial general intelligence, is one of the hottest topics in tech today. It’s also one of the most controversial. A big part of the problem is that few people agree on what the term even means.

AGI typically means artificial intelligence that matches (or outmatches) humans on a range of tasks. But specifics about what counts as human-like, what tasks, and how many all tend to get waved away: AGI is AI, but better.

Now a team of Google DeepMind researchers has put out a paper that cuts through the cross talk with not just one new definition for AGI — but a whole taxonomy of them.

We got an exclusive insight into how the Google DeepMind team came up with their definitions—including five ascending levels of AGI—and what they’re hoping to achieve. Read the full story.

—Will Douglas Heaven

Exclusive: Behind Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s push to get AI tools in developers’ hands

Satya Nadella is obsessed with developers. The Microsoft CEO has been doing the rounds at various conferences over the past few weeks, surprising attendees at OpenAI’s DevDay and GitHub Universe with unannounced appearances last week.

He also took to the stage yesterday speaking to developers at Microsoft Ignite, explaining all the ways in which devs can take advantage of its new AI-based tools to build exciting new systems and experiences. But he also had a message: The way we create software is fundamentally changing.

Nadella took time out of his busy schedule to sit down with Mat Honan, our editor in chief, to discuss the transition to natural language AI tools, some of which he argues will lower the barrier to entry for software development, and ultimately lead to a new era of creativity. Read the full story.

Why is the universe so complex and beautiful?

Why isn’t the universe boring? It could be. It could be just a monotonous desert of sameness. Instead, we have a universe filled with stars and planets, canyons and waterfalls, pine trees and people. But why is any of this stuff here?

Cosmologists have pieced together an answer to this question over the past half-century, using a variety of increasingly complex experiments and observational instruments. But as is nearly always the case in science, that answer is incomplete.

Now, with new experiments of breathtaking sensitivity, physicists are hoping to spot a never-before-seen event that could explain one of the great remaining mysteries in that story: why there was any matter around to form complicated things in the first place. Read the full story.

—Adam Becker

‘Why is the universe so complex and beautiful?’is part of our new mini-series The Biggest Questions, which explores how technology is helping probe some of the deepest, most mind-bending mysteries of our existence.

Read more:

+ How did life begin? AI is helping chemists unpick the mysteries around the origins of life and detect signs of it on other worlds. Read the full story.

+ Are we alone in the universe? Scientists are training machine-learning models and designing instruments to hunt for life on other worlds. Read the full story.

+ Is it possible to really understand someone else’s mind? How we think, feel and experience the world is a mystery to everyone but us. But technology may be starting to help us understand the minds of others. Read the full story.

What’s coming next for fusion research

The concept behind fusion is pretty simple: the power source could provide consistent energy from widely available fuel without producing radioactive waste. But making a fusion power plant a reality will require a huge amount of science and technology progress. Though some milestones have been reached, many are yet to come.

The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory made headlines around the world when it achieved what’s called net energy gain, finally demonstrating that fusion reactions can generate more energy than is used to start them up, last year.

This week at our EmTech MIT event, our climate reporter Casey Crownhart sat down with Kimberly Budil, the lab’s director, to hear more about this moment for fusion research, where the national labs fit in, and where we go from here. Read the full story.

This story is from The Spark, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things climate and energy. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 US investigators don’t know how

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: defining AGI, and making sense of the complicated universe
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2023/11/16/1083526/the-download-defining-agi-and-making-sense-of-the-complicated-universe/
Published Date: Thu, 16 Nov 2023 13:10:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Tech

These board games want you to beat climate change

DAY0101 DaybreakQuickstart e30 c2

It’s game night,and I’m crossing my fingers, hoping for a hurricane.

I roll the die and it clatters across the board, tumbling to a stop to reveal a tiny icon of a tree stump. Bad news: I just triggered deforestation in the Amazon. That seals it. I failed to stop climate change—at least this board-game representation of it.

The urgent need to address climate change might seem like unlikely fodder for a fun evening. But a growing number of games are attempting to take on the topic, including a version of the bestseller Catan released this summer.

As a climate reporter, I was curious about whether games could, even abstractly, represent the challenge of the climate crisis. Perhaps more crucially, could they possibly be any fun?

My investigation started with Daybreak, a board game released in late 2023 by a team that includes the creator of Pandemic (infectious disease—another famously light topic for a game). Daybreak is a cooperative game where players work together to cut emissions and survive disasters. The group either wins or loses as a whole.

When I opened the box, it was immediately clear that this wouldn’t be for the faint of heart. There are hundreds of tiny cardboard and wooden pieces, three different card decks, and a surprisingly thick rule book. Setting it up, learning the rules, and playing for the first time took over two hours.

the components of the game Daybreak which has Game cards depicting Special Drawing Rights, Clean Electricity Plants, and Reforestation themed play cards
Daybreak, a cooperative board game about stopping climate change.COURTESY OF CMYK

Daybreak is full of details, and I was struck by how many of them it gets right. Not only are there cards representing everything from walkable cities to methane removal, but each features a QR code players can use to learn more.

In each turn, players deploy technologies or enact policies to cut climate pollution. Just as in real life, emissions have negative effects. Winning requires slashing emissions to net zero (the point where whatever’s emitted can be soaked up by forests, oceans, or direct air capture). But there are multiple ways for the whole group to lose, including letting the global average temperature increase by 2 °C or simply running out of turns.

In an embarrassing turn of events for someone who spends most of her waking hours thinking about climate change, nearly every round of Daybreak I played ended in failure. Adding insult to injury, I’m not entirely sure that I was having fun. Sure, the abstract puzzle was engaging and challenging, and after a loss, I’d be checking the clock, seeing if there was time to play again. But once all the pieces were back in the box, I went to bed obsessing about heat waves and fossil-fuel disinformation. The game was perhaps representing climate change a little bit too well.

I wondered if a new edition of a classic would fare better. Catan, formerly Settlers of Catan, and its related games have sold over 45 million copies worldwide since the original’s release in 1995. The game’s object is to build roads and settlements, setting up a civilization.

In late 2023, Catan Studios announced that it would be releasing a version of its game called New Energies, focused on climate change. The new edition, out this summer, preserves the same central premise as the original. But this time, players will also construct power plants, generating energy with either fossil fuels or renewables. Fossil fuels are cheaper and allow for quicker expansion, but they lead to pollution, which can harm players’ societies and even end the game early.

Before I got my hands on the game, I spoke with one of its creators, Benjamin Teuber, who developed the game with his late father, Klaus Teuber, the mastermind behind the original Catan.

To Teuber, climate change is a more natural fit for a game than one might expect. “We believe that a good game is always around a dilemma,” he told me. The key is to simplify the problem sufficiently, a challenge that took the team dozens of iterations while developing New Energies. But he also thinks there’s a need to be at least somewhat encouraging. “While we have a severe topic, or maybe even especially because we have a severe topic, you can’t scare off the

Read More

————

By: Casey Crownhart
Title: These board games want you to beat climate change
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/14/1093384/catan-climate-change-board-games/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…
https://mansbrand.com/the-download-milk-beyond-cows-and-geoengineerings-funding-boom/

Continue Reading

Tech

The Download: milk beyond cows, and geoengineering’s funding boom

This is today’s edition of The Download our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Biotech companies are trying to make milk without cows

The outbreak of avian influenza on US dairy farms has started to make milk seem a lot less wholesome. Milk that’s raw, or unpasteurized, can actually infect mice that drink it, and a few dairy workers have already caught the bug.

The FDA says that commercial milk is safe because it is pasteurized, killing the germs. Even so, it’s enough to make a person ponder a life beyond milk—say, taking your coffee black or maybe drinking oat milk.

But for those of us who can’t do without the real thing, it turns out some genetic engineers are working on ways to keep the milk and get rid of the cows instead. Here’s how they’re doing it.

—Antonio Regalado

This story is from The Checkup, our weekly biotech and health newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Thursday.

This London non-profit is now one of the biggest backers of geoengineering research

A London-based nonprofit is poised to become one of the world’s largest financial backers of solar geoengineering research. It’s just one of a growing number of foundations eager to support scientists exploring whether the world could ease climate change by reflecting away more sunlight.

The uptick in funding will offer scientists in the controversial field far more support than they’ve enjoyed in the past. This will allow them to pursue a wider array of lab work, modeling, and potentially even outdoor experiments that could improve our understanding of the benefits and risks of such interventions. Read the full story.

—James Temple

How to opt out of Meta’s AI training

If you post or interact with chatbots on Facebook, Instagram, Threads, or WhatsApp, Meta can use your data to train its generative AI models beginning June 26, according to its recently updated privacy policy.

Internet data scraping is one of the biggest fights in AI right now. Tech companies argue that anything on the public internet is fair game, but they are facing a barrage of lawsuits over their data practices and copyright. It will likely take years until clear rules are in place.

In the meantime, if you’re uncomfortable with having Meta use your personal information and intellectual property to train its AI models, consider opting out. Here’s how to do it.

—Melissa Heikkila

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 The US Supreme Court has upheld access to the abortion pill
It’s the most significant ruling since it overturned Roe v Wade in 2022. (FT $)
The decision represents the aversion of a major crisis for reproductive health. (Wired $)
But states like Kansas are likely to draw out legal arguments over access. (The Guardian)

2 Amazon is struggling to revamp Alexa
It’s repeatedly missed deadlines and is floundering to catch up with its rivals. (Fortune)
OpenAI has stolen a march on Amazon’s AI assistant ambitions. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Clearview AI has struck a deal to end a privacy class action
If your face was scraped as facial recognition data, you may be entitled to a stake in the company. (NYT $)
The startup doesn’t have the funds to settle the lawsuit. (Reuters)
It was fined millions of dollars for its practices back in 2022. (MIT Technology Review)

4 What’s next for nanotechnology
Molecular machines to kill bacteria aren’t new—but they are promising. (New Yorker $)

5 The Pope is a surprisingly influential voice in the AI safety debate
Pope Francis will address G7 leaders who have gathered today to discuss AI regulation. (WP $)
Smaller startups are lobbying to be acquired by bigger fish. (Bloomberg $)
What’s next for AI regulation in 2024? (MIT Technology Review)

6 Keeping data centers cool uses colossal amounts of power
Dunking servers in oil could be a far more environmentally-friendly method. (IEEE Spectrum)

7 UK voters can back an AI-generated candidate in next month’s election
How very Black Mirror. (NBC News)

8 How to tell if your boss is spying on you
Checking your browser extensions is a good place to start. (WP $)

9We don’t know much about how the human body reacts to space
But with the rise of space tourism, scientists are hoping to find out. (TechCrunch)
This startup wants to find out if humans can have babies in space. (MIT Technology Review)

10 This platform is a who’s-who of rising internet stars
Famous Birthdays is basically a directory of hugely successful teenagers you’ve never heard of. (Economist $)

Quote of the day

“If it’s somebody on the right, I reward them. If it’s somebody

Read More

————

By: Rhiannon Williams
Title: The Download: milk beyond cows, and geoengineering’s funding boom
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/14/1093797/the-download-milk-beyond-cows-and-geoengineerings-funding-boom/
Published Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2024 12:10:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Tech

How gamification took over the world

It’s a thought that occurs to every video-game player at some point: What if the weird, hyper-focused state I enter when playing in virtual worlds could somehow be applied to the real one?

Often pondered during especially challenging or tedious tasks in meatspace (writing essays, say, or doing your taxes), it’s an eminently reasonable question to ask. Life, after all, is hard. And while video games are too, there’s something almost magical about the way they can promote sustained bouts of superhuman concentration and resolve.

For some, this phenomenon leads to an interest in flow states and immersion. For others, it’s simply a reason to play more games. For a handful of consultants, startup gurus, and game designers in the late 2000s, it became the key to unlocking our true human potential.

In her 2010 TED Talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World,” the game designer Jane McGonigal called this engaged state “blissful productivity.” “There’s a reason why the average World of Warcraft gamer plays for 22 hours a week,” she said. “It’s because we know when we’re playing a game that we’re actually happier working hard than we are relaxing or hanging out. We know that we are optimized as human beings to do hard and meaningful work. And gamers are willing to work hard all the time.”

McGonigal’s basic pitch was this: By making the real world more like a video game, we could harness the blissful productivity of millions of people and direct it at some of humanity’s thorniest problems—things like poverty, obesity, and climate change. The exact details of how to accomplish this were a bit vague (play more games?), but her objective was clear: “My goal for the next decade is to try to make it as easy to save the world in real life as it is to save the world in online games.”

While the word “gamification” never came up during her talk, by that time anyone following the big-ideas circuit (TED, South by Southwest, DICE, etc.) or using the new Foursquare app would have been familiar with the basic idea. Broadly defined as the application of game design elements and principles to non-game activities—think points, levels, missions, badges, leaderboards, reinforcement loops, and so on—gamification was already being hawked as a revolutionary new tool for transforming education, work, health and fitness, and countless other parts of life.

Instead of liberating us, gamification turned out to be just another tool for coercion, distraction, and control.

Adding “world-saving” to the list of potential benefits was perhaps inevitable, given the prevalence of that theme in video-game storylines. But it also spoke to gamification’s foundational premise: the idea that reality is somehow broken. According to McGonigal and other gamification boosters, the real world is insufficiently engaging and motivating, and too often it fails to make us happy. Gamification promises to remedy this design flawby engineering a new reality, one that transforms the dull, difficult, and depressing parts of life into something fun and inspiring. Studying for exams, doing household chores, flossing, exercising, learning a new language—there was no limit to the tasks that could be turned into games, making everything IRL better.

Today, we live in an undeniably gamified world. We stand up and move around to close colorful rings and earn achievement badges on our smartwatches; we meditate and sleep to recharge our body batteries; we plant virtual trees to be more productive; we chase “likes” and “karma” on social media sites and try to swipe our way toward social connection. And yet for all the crude gamelike elements that have been grafted onto our lives, the more hopeful and collaborative world that gamification promised more than a decade ago seems as far away as ever. Instead of liberating us from drudgery and maximizing our potential, gamification turned out to be just another tool for coercion, distraction, and control.

Con game

This was not an unforeseeable outcome. From the start, a small but vocal group of journalists and game designers warned against the fairy-tale thinking and facile view of video games that they saw in the concept of gamification. Adrian Hon, author of You’ve Been Played, a recent book that chronicles its dangers, was one of them.

“As someone who was building so-called ‘serious games’ at the time the concept was taking off, I knew that a lot of the claims being made around the possibility of games to transform people’s behaviors and change the world were completely overblown,” he says.

Hon isn’t some knee-jerk polemicist. A trained neuroscientist who switched to a career in game design and development, he’s the co-creator of Zombies, Run!—one of the most popular gamified fitness apps in the world. While he still believes games can benefit and enrich aspects of our nongaming lives, Hon says a one-size-fits-all

Read More

————

By: Bryan Gardiner
Title: How gamification took over the world
Sourced From: www.technologyreview.com/2024/06/13/1093375/gamification-behaviorism-npcs-video-games/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2024 09:00:00 +0000

Continue Reading

Trending