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A few interesting / troubling developments in the field of artificial intelligence and robotics:

Deepfake Videos:

  • It is becoming increasingly easy to create relatively realistic videos of people saying things that they have never said. The only materials required for this technique are access to real videos of the person speaking, recordings of their voice, and access to Deepfake software. Although videos created using this method still look a little off, they will no doubt be virtually indistinguishable from their legitimate counterparts in a few years time. Given how easily fooled people are by fake content today, one can only imagine the effect that illegitimate videos will have in the future.

Although the Deepfakes demonstrated in the video above are pretty impressive, the example below is nothing short of mind blowing. It begins at 0:10.

Artificially Generated Text:

  • It looks as though journalists might join the growing ranks of people who’s jobs are being threatened by advances in artificial intelligence. Although it was once very difficult to imagine that a computer could write convincingly, times have changed. Many news organizations have begun to use artificial writing programs to generate articles, particularly those that are relatively simple, such as earnings reports. Even more fascinating, the influential artificial intelligence research organization OpenAI recently developed a writing program so advanced they have decided not to release it to the public, for fear that it could be abused. As far as I know, this is the first of their creations that they have not made accessible to everyone, which is a pretty big deal. To read OpenAI’s description of their new program, and to see a sample of writing that it generated, click here. 
  • Click the following link if you’d like to see an example of artificially generated text from a few years back: AI-Generated Harry Potter Chapter. Clearly, text generation has come a long way since the time at which this text was created.

Amazon’s New Packing Machines:

Amazon is allegedly about to purchase and incorporate automatic packing machines into its warehouses. These machines are said to be capable of packaging at five times the rate of human workers.

So pronounced is Amazon’s push towards automation, that it has actually started incentivizing its warehouse workers to quit their current jobs and start private businesses delivering Amazon packages. To read more about this machine and Amazon’s offer to their employees, click here.  If you want to see what the machine looks like in action, check out the video below.

Stat of the week – Amount of Time the Average American Spends Watching Television Per Day: 5 hours and 4 minutes

Quote By Yuval Noah Harari

“For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals combined. In the early twenty-first century, the average human is far more likely to die from bingeing at McDonald’s than from drought, Ebola or an al-Qaeda attack.”

Wired Article on Sunscreen Absorption – Sunscreen Chemicals Soak All The Way Into Your Bloodstream

Unfortunately, many of the seemingly beneficial compounds and food additives we once used on a daily basis have ended up being toxic and or detrimental to health. Although a great deal of progress has been made on identifying which of these substances are having adverse effects, there is no doubt that many are still being regularly used. For example, the above article discusses the recent discovery that many of the compounds found in sunscreen are absorbed into the bloodstream after topical application. Although more research is needed to determine whether these additives might lead to adverse health effects, I’m probably going to start wearing long sleeve shirts in lieu of sunscreen until said research is conducted.

Drone Photo