The Conversation

Artificial intelligence: here’s what you need to know to understand how machines learn

From Jeopardy winners and Go masters to infamous advertising-related racial profiling, it would seem we have entered an era in which artificial intelligence developments are rapidly accelerating. But a fully sentient being whose electronic “brain” can fully engage in complex cognitive tasks using fair moral judgement remains, for now, beyond our capabilities. Unfortunately, current developments ar...[Read More]

If Facebook ruled the world: Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of a digital future

Mark Zuckerberg, the 32-year-old multi-billionaire co-founder and CEO of Facebook has published his manifesto for the future. It’s a comprehensive vision, running at nearly 6,000 words – and the political and media elites have been poring over every word. This epic, sprawling treatise begins with Zuckerberg’s writing of Facebook’s continuing journey to connect the world. In times like these, he st...[Read More]

Game therapy: serious video games can help children with cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common childhood physical disability, affecting more than 34,000 Australians, and more than 17 million people worldwide. The condition results when there is an injury to the developing brain that goes on to affect a child’s movement and posture, but can also include the senses (vision, hearing, touch) and cognition (thinking). On average, the incidence of CP means t...[Read More]

Is your smartphone making you shy?

During the three years I’ve spent researching and writing about shyness, one of the most common questions people ask is about the relationship between being shy and technology. Are the internet and the cellphone causing our social skills to atrophy? I often hear this from parents of shy teenagers, who are worried that their children are spending more time with their devices than with their peers. ...[Read More]

The design tricks that made the Nokia 3310 world-beating

The Nokia 3310 mobile phone has near iconic status. Released in 2000, it is among the best-selling phones of all time, with 126m units produced. It was renowned for being virtually indestructible and for launching many of us onto the first rung of our connected lifestyles. Many people in their 30s and upwards remember it as the first cool phone they owned, or the phone their friends had that made ...[Read More]

Five ways nanoscience is making science fiction into fact

Russian author Boris Zhitkov wrote the 1931 short story Microhands, in which the narrator creates miniature hands to carry out intricate surgeries. And while that was nearly 100 years ago, the tale illustrates the real fundamentals of the nanoscience researchers are working on today. Nanoscience is the study of molecules that are one billionth of a metre in size. To put this into perspective, a hu...[Read More]

Should cybersecurity be a human right?

Having access to the internet is increasingly considered to be an emerging human right. International organizations and national governments have begun to formally recognize its importance to freedom of speech, expression and information exchange. The next step to help ensure some measure of cyber peace online may be for cybersecurity to be recognized as a human right, too. The United Nations has ...[Read More]

Robot bees vs real bees – why tiny drones can’t compete with the real thing

The latest service to be revolutionised by drones might not be package delivery or internet connections but the far more valuable service of pollination. Researchers in Japan have been exploring the potential of using miniature drones covered with sticky hairs to act like robotic bees to counter the decline of natural pollinators. Writing in a paper in the journal Chem, the team demonstrated their...[Read More]

Brain scanners allow scientists to ‘read minds’ – could they now enable a ‘Big Brother’ future?

Are you lying? Do you have a racial bias? Is your moral compass intact? To find out what you think or feel, we usually have to take your word for it. But questionnaires and other explicit measures to reveal what’s on your mind are imperfect: you may choose to hide your true beliefs or you may not even be aware of them. But now there is a technology that enables us to “read the mind” with growing a...[Read More]

How computer hacking is becoming Russia’s weapon of choice

In his 2007 address to the Annual Security Conference in Munich, Vladimir Putin threw down a gauntlet to the West. Attacking what he called “illegal” unilateral military action by the US, he hinted that Russia would build its capability in information warfare to counter American and NATO expansion. In the same year, a Russian policy doctrine noted that as the world became more digitally connected,...[Read More]

Are you really anonymous online? Your friends on Twitter may give you away

As you browse the internet, online advertisers track nearly every site you visit, amassing a trove of information on your habits and preferences. When you visit a news site, they might see you’re a fan of basketball, opera and mystery novels, and accordingly select ads tailored to your tastes. Advertisers use this information to create highly personalized experiences, but they typically don’t know...[Read More]

Robot rights: at what point should an intelligent machine be considered a ‘person’?

Science fiction likes to depict robots as autonomous machines, capable of making their own decisions and often expressing their own personalities. Yet we also tend to think of robots as property, and as lacking the kind of rights that we reserve for people. But if a machine can think, decide and act on its own volition, if it can be harmed or held responsible for its actions, should we stop treati...[Read More]

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