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The Guardian
Saturday February 06, 2016 @ 01:18:39 AM mt

Artificial Intelligence: Gods egos and Ex Machina



Even with its flaws, last years Ex Machina perfectly captured the curious relationship between artificial intelligence, God and ego. A tiny change in its closing moments would have given it an intriguing new dimension.

Its taken me a year and a several viewings to collect my thoughts about Ex Machina. Superficially it looks like a film about the future of artificial intelligence, but like most science fiction, it tells us more about the present than the future; and like most discussion around AI, it ends up reflecting not technological progress so much as human egos. (Spoilers ahead!)

Artificial intelligence is one of the most narcissistic fields of research since astronomers gave up the geocentric universe. A central conceit of the field has long been that creating human-like intelligence is both desirable and some sort of ultimate achievement. In the last fifty years or so, a chain of thinkers from von Neumann to Kurzweil via Vernor Vinge have stretched beyond that, to develop the idea of the Singularity a point at which the present human-led era ends as the first super-human AIs take charge of their own development and begin to hyper-evolve in ways we can scarcely imagine.

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The Guardian
Tuesday February 09, 2016 @ 01:39:53 AM mt

Lena Dunham pulls out of Girls promotional tour due to endometriosis flare-up



Actor, who suffers from condition that affects one in 10 women, says my body (along with my amazing doctors) let me know, in no uncertain terms, that its time to rest

Showrunner, actor and writer Lena Dunham has pulled out of the promotional tour for season five of Girls, due to a flare-up of endometriosis, a disease she has lived with since she was a teenager.

In a post to Facebook and Instagram, Dunham warned her fans she wont be doing press for the upcoming season, which premieres on HBO on 21 February.

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The Guardian
Monday February 08, 2016 @ 01:27:46 AM mt

Samsung SmartThings Hub review: an Internet of Things to rule them all



Hoping to be the one-stop-shop for open IoT control, it joins up various new and existing connected devices in a user-friendly and powerful system

The Internet of Things where seemingly ordinary devices connect to each other and the internet to make them more than the sum of their parts (think fridges that know when youre out of milk and then order more for you) is still more a concept than a reality for many.

That is steadily changing as more and more devices arrive on the market but, like the spokes on a bicycle wheel need a hub to connect them, those devices need to be linked up to be useful. Samsungs SmartThings hub hopes to be that central pin that connects them all.

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The Guardian
Monday February 08, 2016 @ 01:27:46 AM mt

Chatterbox: Monday



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The Guardian
Monday February 08, 2016 @ 02:10:33 AM mt

London mayor race: fibs fur and fantasies fly as Zac Goldsmith awakes



Labours Sadiq Khan has been making the running but his Tory rival may now be picking up the pace

Who kissed Sleeping Beauty? After months of campaign slumber Zac Goldsmith, Conservative mayoral candidate and organic Dish of the Day, finally woke up late last week in a London television studio. Until then, his main rival for City Hall, Labours Sadiq Khan, had been outrunning, outflanking and generally outdoing him on every front. But when, for the first time, Goldsmith engaged Khan directly, face to face, on ITV Londons Late Debate, he at last looked switched on and more like the electoral Prince Charming his party hopes he is. Confident and calm, he called Khans bluff a few times. He also talked plenty of trash. Both men are now bullsh#!2$ting freely. Wellies on. Lets wade in.

The risk with Khans campaign is that he over-promises or, to be exact, seems to be doing so. This gives Goldsmith an opportunity to depict him as an untrustworthy, dreamworld lefty, which is the top and bottom of his strategy. The Tory has been assisted by an internal Transport for London (TfL) briefing note which found its way to BBC London. According to this document, Khan has hugely underestimated the cost to TfL of his proposed four-year freeze on public transport fares. Goldsmith recited an entire paragraph from the Lynton Crosby red scare manual hes clearly been diligently cramming. I quote:

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The Guardian
Saturday February 06, 2016 @ 01:18:38 AM mt

Zika: how the virus's ability to spread in the US is remarkably easy



All it takes is for an already infected person to be bitten by a species of carrier mosquito, which thrive in the south. Two entomologists discuss the potential of a US public health crisis and the challenges of eradicating the mosquitoes

As Brazilian authorities admit they are badly losing the battle against the mosquito, local insect experts say it would be remarkably easy for the Zika virus to begin spreading in the US.

Related: Zika virus: its effects, how it is spread, and the possible threat to women

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The Guardian
Wednesday February 03, 2016 @ 12:19:28 AM mt

To oblivion and beyond: art and science at the edge of consciousness



From William Blakes vision of a soul leaving the body to Goshka Macugas creepy somnambulist, a new exhibition explores the mysteries of the mind but are we any closer to finding the answers Descartes was seeking when he dissected a human brain more than 350 years ago?

They hover between worlds. One woman seems blissful, smiling with acceptance. Another looks terrified as her big eyes flicker and roll. Aya Ben Rons film Still Under Treatment is a troubling and eerie study of patients being anaesthetised prior to surgery. Anaesthesia surely ranks with antibiotics as one of the pillars of modern medicine, allowing us to undergo surgery without knowing it. Yet the expressions of yielding and resistance on the faces of the seven patients in Ben Rons film and the total oblivion that descends reveal how mysterious this moment is when something is nulled inside them, when they are put to sleep.

Physiologically its different from sleep its dreamless, explains Kevin Fong, a consultant anaesthetist at UCLH hospital in London. He says its more like switching your consciousness off. How that idea would have fascinated Ren Descartes, the man who famously said I think therefore I am. Aya Ben Rons film is showing at the Wellcome Collection in an exhibition called States of Mind, which begins with this great 17th-century scientist and philosophers illustration of a dissected brain, from his book De Homine, published in 1662. Descartes engraving shows the soft grey matter a cauliflower crossed with a deflated balloon cut open to reveal the pineal gland. He identified this precise place in the human brain as the exact spot where the mind or soul communicates with and controls the body.

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The Guardian
Monday February 08, 2016 @ 12:35:13 AM mt

Where are the world's highest cities



Despite the lack of oxygen and health risks, high-altitude locations are home to at least 140 million people around the world. From Bolivias El Alto to Lhasa in Tibet, whats urban life like at such dizzying elevations?

At 3,640 metres above sea level, the Bolivian capital La Paz sits in a canyon resembling something of a bowl within the Bolivian altiplano a high altitude, windswept plain that dominates the southern and western territory of the country. Its the worlds highest administrative capital, yet more of the metropolitan population lives in the even higher city of El Alto at 4,150 metres, on the rim of the canyon.

El Alto was uninhabited at the start of the 20th century, but as land became more expensive in neighbouring La Paz, the city grew: for the last 50 years, new development has spiralled out of control into a chaotic mix of winding streets through which water and sewer services struggle to extend.

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The Guardian
Monday February 08, 2016 @ 12:35:13 AM mt

Lipgloss and bathwater: the Tokyo stories of Daido Moriyama



For half a century, street photographer Daido Moriyama has ferreted out the everyday mysteries beneath the sleaze of Tokyos Shinjuku district

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The Guardian
Friday February 05, 2016 @ 12:26:32 AM mt

Chatterbox: Friday



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