Winning laughter: “Software is eating the world”—including art, too?

IT IS easy to dismiss the latest project by Eyal Gever, an Israeli artist, as a joke, not least because it involves laughs. It also ticks all the boxes for buzzwords in the world of geeks: apps, the cloud, crowdsourcing, 3D printing, space travel (only “big data” and the “blockchain”—don’t ask—are mysteriously missing). Even so, starting on December 1st, “viewers” of Mr Gever’s new work will be able to download an app on their smartphones and use their own laughter to create a digital sculpture which is uploaded into the cloud. Participants worldwide will vote on the best piece, to be announced in January and printed a month later on the International Space Station (ISS). 20161202 11:06:34 Comment Expiry Date:  Sat, 2016-12-17

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Hack work: Insurers grapple with cyber-attacks that spill over into physical damage

Print section Print Rubric:  Insurers grapple with hacking that goes beyond data breaches Print Headline:  Hack work Print Fly Title:  Cyber-insurance UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why a strengthening dollar is bad for the world economy Fly Title:  Hack work Location:  NEW YORK Main image:  20161203_FND002_0.jpg AS HACKERS wreak havoc with depressing regularity, the insurance industry finds itself forced to contemplate a whole new set of risks. They range from the theft of millions of credit-card numbers from American retailers to the disabling of the power grid, as happened in Ukraine last December. The dedicated “cyber-insurance” policies that companies offer against data breaches have become relatively routine. But the risks they insure under other policies are also affected by ...

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Searching containers with AI: Machines are learning to find concealed weapons in X-ray scans

Print section Print Rubric:  Machines are learning to find concealed weapons in x-ray scans Print Headline:  Eyes at the border Print Fly Title:  Artificial intelligence UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why a strengthening dollar is bad for the world economy Fly Title:  Searching containers with AI Main image:  Prettier than an x-ray Prettier than an x-ray EVERY day more than 8,000 containers flow through the Port of Rotterdam. But only a fraction are selected to pass through a giant x-ray machine to check for illicit contents. The machine, made by Rapiscan, an American firm, can capture images as the containers move along a track at 15kph (9.3mph). But it takes time for a human to inspect each scan for anything suspicious—and in particular for small metallic objects that might be weapons. (Imagine searching an image of a room three metres by 14 metres ...

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Samsung buys Harman: Amp my ride

Print section Print Rubric:  In its biggest deal yet, Samsung bets on connected cars as a driving force Print Headline:  Amp my ride Print Fly Title:  Samsung buys Harman UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The new nationalism Fly Title:  Samsung buys Harman Location:  SEOUL Main image:  20161119_wbp001.jpg “THE car is the ultimate mobile device,” said Jeff Williams, an executive at Apple, last year. It was taken as another sign that the maker of iGadgets would be deepening its interest in the automotive sector (among other projects, it is developing an in-house smart car that is codenamed Project Titan). Now Samsung Electronics, its big rival in the smartphone world, is following. On November 14th the South Korean company said it would pay $8bn for Harman, a firm based in Stamford, ...

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Babbage: Fighting falsehoods

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Main image:  20161112_mma904_107.jpg Rubric:  We are joined by Martin Sweeney, co-founder of Ravelin, to explain how artificial intelligence is being used to stop fraud. Our environment correspondent discusses climate-change scepticism in America and the potential fallout from a Trump presidency. Also, a long-standing bet about the underpinnings of the universe needs to be settled Published:  20161110 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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Cyber-security: Britain flexes its cyber-muscles

Print section Print Rubric:  Online attacks by foreign powers will be met in kind, vows the government Print Headline:  Britain flexes its cyber-muscles Print Fly Title:  Cyber-security UK Only Article:  UK article only Issue:  America’s best hope Fly Title:  Cyber-security Main image:  20161105_brp503.jpg PHILIP HAMMOND, the chancellor of the exchequer, is not a man given to making dramatic statements. Known as “Spreadsheet Phil” during his cost-cutting stint as defence secretary, he does dry better than the Sahara. Yet on November 1st, addressing a geeky conference hosted by Microsoft, Mr Hammond declared that not only was Britain developing its offensive cyber-capabilities, but it was doing so “because the ability to detect, trace and retaliate in kind is likely to be the best deterrent”. It was a statement of intent that few Western governments have been ...

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Cyber-security: Crash testing

Print section Print Rubric:  Recent attacks on the internet could be a prelude to far worse ones Print Headline:  Crash testing Print Fly Title:  Cyber-security UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Liberty moves north Fly Title:  Cyber-security Main image:  20161029_stp505.jpg “SOMEONE is learning how to take down the internet.” This was the headline of a blog post Bruce Schneier, a noted cyber-security expert, wrote in mid-September. It looked prescient when, on October 21st, Dynamic Network Services (Dyn), a firm that is part of the internet-address system, was disrupted by what is called a “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attack. (Essentially, a DDoS floods servers with requests until they can no longer cope.) For hours, hundreds of sites were hard to reach, including those of Netflix, PayPal and Twitter. The attack on Dyn was only the latest in a ...

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Daily chart: Which gaming company will dominate the virtual-reality market?

WITHIN a decade, virtual-reality (VR) technology is expected to transform the way businesses interact with customers. Immersive, 360-degree experiences, complete with touch and temperature sensations, should become the norm. As early as 2020, spending is forecast to reach $7.9 billion on VR headsets and $3.3 billion on VR entertainment. In the short run, however, VR primarily remains the preserve of gamers. The companies releasing the latest wave of console and headset devices are not only bringing joy to aficionados of “The Lab” and “Gunjack”, but also jockeying for position to compete in a much larger market once the technology goes mainstream.So far, the VR-gaming industry has roughly been divided into a casual sector, dominated by Samsung and Google, and the high end led by Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s Vive (both unveiled this spring). Sony, which released its own headset on October 13th with much fanfare, came relatively late to the game. But with a product more powerful than the mass-market devices, and more affordable than the top-tier ones, it may have a sweet spot all to itself. Moreover, it can rely on a captive global customer base of over 40m Playstation 4 users, forecast to surpass 50m by Christmas. As a result, the Sony headset is expected to make an immediate impact. IHS Markit, an analytics provider, projects the firm will make $134m from ...

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Technology in China: Insanely virtual

Print section Print Rubric:  China leads the world in the adoption of virtual reality Print Headline:  Insanely virtual Print Fly Title:  Technology in China UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The debasing of American politics Fly Title:  Technology in China Location:  SHANGHAI Main image:  Better reality Better reality AT THE heart of an emerging technology cluster in London’s Shoreditch lies the Stage, a big mixed-use building complex that is being developed by Vanke, a Chinese real-estate company, among a few others. A potential Chinese buyer of one of the flats in its 37-storey residential tower recently had a look around. She went from room to room, observing the furnishings and fittings. She marvelled at the city views from the balcony and peeped inside the refrigerator. There was no ...

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Cyber-security: The internet of stings

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The road to Brexit Fly Title:  Cyber-security Main image:  Mr Krebs contemplates life Mr Krebs contemplates life TO A layman, the phrase “Internet of Things” (IoT) probably conjures up a half-fantastic future in which refrigerators monitor their own contents and send orders direct to the grocer when the butter is running out, while tired commuters order baths to be drawn automatically using their smartphones as they approach their houses in their self-driving cars. Actually, though, a version of the IoT is already here. Wi-Fi hubs, smart televisions, digital video-recorders and the like are all part of a network of devices run by microprocessors that, just as much as desktop, laptop and tablet computers, form part of the internet—but with one crucial distinction. Unlike things immediately recognisable as computers, these devices are often designed with poor security, or even none at all. They are wide open to malicious hackers who might wish to misuse them. And there are already around 5 billion of them, ...

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Babbage: Elevated intelligence

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Main image:  20161008_mma902_107.jpg Rubric:  Google launches a handful of hardware to deliver its artificial intelligence. We speak to professor Chris Phillips about this year's Nobel prize for physics and research analyst Alberto Moel discusses how machine learning is enhancing factory automation and what the global implications are in the world of work Published:  20161005 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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Ink wars: Blot on the landscape

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Why they’re wrong Fly Title:  Ink wars Main image:  20161001_WBP501.jpg IT TOOK a while to join the dots. On the morning of September 13th owners of several types of HP OfficeJet, a printer designed for the home and for smaller offices that is manufactured by HP Inc, an American seller of printers and computers, switched on their machines and found them not quite the same. The night before they had been able to print with any sort of ink cartridge. Since that day only machines containing original HP cartridges have churned out copies. The cause, enraged customers came to realise, was the deployment by HP of a firmware update that blocks rival ink. HP had reason to act as it did. Though its printers business remains profitable, revenues fell by 14% in the year to July. More-paperless offices take most of the blame: printer shipments have tumbled by a fifth since 2007. But rivals in the market for ink squeeze margins. Non-original cartridges now make up about 26% of the trade in Europe, the Middle East and ...

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Wireless communication: In a whole new light

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The low-rate world Fly Title:  Wireless communication Main image:  Once upon a time Once upon a time FLICKERING lamps are normally a headache-inducing nuisance. But if the flickering happens millions of times a second—far faster than the eye can see or the brain respond to—then it might be harnessed to do something useful, like transmitting data. That, at least, is the idea behind a technology dubbed Li-Fi by its creators. Li-Fi works with light-emitting diodes (LEDs), an increasingly popular way of illuminating homes and offices, and applies the same principle as that used by naval signal lamps. In other words, it encodes messages in flashes of light. It can be used to create a local-area network, or LAN, in a way similar to the LANs made possible by standard, microwave-based Wi-Fi. Such LANs would, Li-Fi’s supporters believe, have two advantages over standard Wi-Fi. One is that light does not penetrate walls. A Li-Fi LAN in a windowless room is thus more secure than one using Wi-Fi, whose microwave ...

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Aviation safety: Flight response

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Britain’s one-party state Fly Title:  Aviation safety Main image:  Just relax and enjoy the view, Captain Just relax and enjoy the view, Captain ON JUNE 1st 2009, an Air France airliner travelling from Rio de Janeiro to Paris flew into a mid-Atlantic storm. Ice began forming in the sensors used by the aircraft to measure its airspeed, depriving the autopilot of that vital data. So, by design, the machine switched itself off and ceded control to the pilots. Without knowing their speed, and with no horizon visible in a storm in the dead of night, the crew struggled to cope. Against all their training, they kept the plane’s nose pointed upward, forcing it to lose speed and lift. Shortly afterwards the aeroplane plummeted into the ocean, killing all 228 people on board. French air-accident investigators concluded that a lack of pilot training played a big part in the tragedy. As cockpits become ever more computerised, pilots need to keep their flying skills up to date. But pilots are also in short supply. In ...

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Daily chart: Excel errors and science papers

THREE years ago Thomas Herndon, a young graduate student from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, made a splash among economists. Given an assignment to replicate the analysis behind a published academic paper, he pored over the data used for an influential study on government debt written by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, both professors at Harvard. Much to the authors’ embarrassment, Mr Herndon found the most elementary of mistakes: they had accidentally omitted five rows of their spreadsheet when calculating an average. When included, the missing figures weakened the paper’s conclusion substantially.Unsurprisingly, spreadsheet snafus are not unique to economics. A recent study in the journal Genome Biology looked at papers published between 2005 and 2015, and found spreadsheet-related errors in fully one-fifth of articles on genomics that provided supplementary data alongside their text. Although the papers themselves were not necessarily affected, such bugs can create complications for other scientists trying to replicate or build on previous work.The syntax of genomics makes it particularly difficult for off-the-shelf software to digest. First, spreadsheets often confuse gene symbols for dates. The authors found that Microsoft Excel would often interpret “SEPT2”, which corresponds to the gene Septin 2, as “September 2nd”. The programme also tended to ...

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Linux and AWS: Cloud chronicles

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Brave new worlds Fly Title:  Linux and AWS Main image:  20160827_WBD001_0.jpg AS BOSSES go, Linus Torvalds and Andy Jassy couldn’t be more different. Mr Torvalds works, often in his bathrobe, out of his home in Portland, Oregon. He leads an army of volunteer developers whose software can be had for nothing. The office of Mr Jassy, who usually sports business casual, is in a tower in Seattle. His employees operate dozens of huge data centres around the world and work to create new online services that his firm can charge for. Yet their organisations share an anniversary and an intertwined history. On August 25th 1991 Mr Torvalds asked other developers to comment on a computer operating system he had written, which became known as Linux. It has since become the world’s most-used piece of software of this type. On the same day in 2006 Mr Jassy’s team made available a beta version of “Elastic Compute Cloud” (EC2), the central offering of Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud-computing arm of Amazon, an ...

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Babbage: Exploring the final frontier

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Byline:  Economist.com Main image:  20160827_mma902_107.jpg Rubric:  An E​arth-like planet has been discovered orbiting the nearest star to our solar system, reveals astronomer Richard Nelson. Oliver Morton discusses the new space technology closer to home, and Tom Standage describes the state of the art in — and the worries about — facial-recognition software Published:  20160824 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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Canvassing: Is hacktivism art?

WHEN Donald Trump stated that he wanted to stop Muslims from entering America, Anonymous, a cybergroup, responded by hacking his website. They disabled the Trump Towers site, and posted a video on YouTube asking Mr Trump to think before he speaks. In June, they hacked 250 Facebook and Twitter accounts associated with Islamic State (IS), replacing jihadist messages and images with LGBT rainbow flags and pro-gay slogans. “Hello World. It’s time I share with you a little secret…I’m Gay and I’m Proud!!” read one. “#GayPride.” 20160824 15:02:29 Comment Expiry Date:  Thu, 2016-09-08

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Game on: The travel industry has been quick to jump on the Pokémon Go bandwagon

ONLY readers living under a rock for the past two months will be unaware of Pokémon Go. The smartphone game, which overlays augmented-reality onto real-world locations, has been downloaded some 100m times on Google Play alone. Players hunt for their favourite characters at “Pokéstops” and send them into gladiatorial battle in “Pokégyms”. Some Pokémon are only found in certain parts of the world. As a result any player dedicated to the game's mantra of “Gotta catch them all” needs to travel. This has made the travel and hospitality industry sit up and take note. Without warning, a host of businesses and landmarks have found themselves swarming with eager gamers staring at iPhones. Initially, bars and cafes lucky enough to be assigned as Pokéstops paid for “lures”, a feature of the game that allows them to attract more Pokémon (and therefore players). Now the travel industry has ramped things up and Pokémon tourism is the fad. Cities are selling themselves based on the concentration of Pokéstops and Pokégyms they have. Guided tours have sprung up to allow tourists to hunt rare monsters. Hotels are promoting themselves by claiming guests do not even need to get out of bed to catch a passing Bulbasaur. Gamers, it seems, are even adapting their travel plans to accommodate gameplay.This may seem irrelevant to business travellers, ...

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Aviation and robots: Flight fantastic

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Nightmare on Main Street Fly Title:  Aviation and robots Main image:  20160820_STP001_0.jpg THE idea of a drone—an aircraft designed from scratch to be pilotless—is now familiar. But what if you want to make pilotless a plane you already possess? Air forces, particularly America’s, sometimes do this with obsolete craft that they wish to fly for target practice. By using servomotors to work the joystick and the control surfaces, and adding new instruments and communications so the whole thing can be flown remotely, a good enough lash-up can be achieved to keep the target airborne until it meets its fiery fate. The desire for pilotlessness, though, now goes way beyond the ability to take pot shots at redundant F-16s. America’s air force wants, as far as possible, to robotise cargo, refuelling and reconnaissance missions, leaving the manned stuff mostly to its top-gun fighter pilots. This could be done eventually with new, purpose-built aircraft. But things would happen much faster if existing machines could ...

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Data analytics: The power of learning

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Nightmare on Main Street Fly Title:  Data analytics Main image:  20160820_LDD003_1.jpg IN “Minority Report”, a policeman, played by Tom Cruise, gleans tip-offs from three psychics and nabs future criminals before they break the law. In the real world, prediction is more difficult. But it may no longer be science fiction, thanks to the growing prognosticatory power of computers. That prospect scares some, but it could be a force for good—if it is done right. Machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, can generate remarkably accurate predictions. It works by crunching vast quantities of data in search of patterns. Take, for example, restaurant hygiene. The system learns which combinations of sometimes obscure factors are most suggestive of a problem. Once trained, it can assess the risk that a restaurant is dirty. The Boston mayor’s office is testing just such an approach, using data from Yelp reviews. This has led to a 25% rise in the number of spot inspections that uncover ...

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Machine learning: Of prediction and policy

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  Nightmare on Main Street Fly Title:  Machine learning Main image:  20160820_FND001_0.jpg FOR frazzled teachers struggling to decide what to watch on an evening off, help is at hand. An online streaming service’s software predicts what they might enjoy, based on the past choices of similar people. When those same teachers try to work out which children are most at risk of dropping out of school, they get no such aid. But, as Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard University notes, these types of problem are alike. They require predictions based, implicitly or explicitly, on lots of data. Many areas of policy, he suggests, could do with a dose of machine learning. Machine-learning systems excel at prediction. A common approach is to train a system by showing it a vast quantity of data on, say, students and their achievements. The software chews through the examples and learns which characteristics are most helpful in predicting whether a student will drop out. Once trained, it can study a different group and ...

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Tasting menu: Highlights from the August 6th 2016 edition, in audio

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Tasting menu Main image:  20160806_mma904_107.jpg Rubric:  This week: Taiwan’s canine couture, the world develops a sweet tooth for posh chocolate and artificial minds edge a little closer to our own Published:  20160806 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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Artificial neurons: You’ve got a nerve

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Issue:  The ruining of Egypt Fly Title:  Artificial neurons Main image:  20160806_stp003.jpg SINCE nobody really knows how brains work, those researching them must often resort to analogies. A common one is that a brain is a sort of squishy, imprecise, biological version of a digital computer. But analogies work both ways, and computer scientists have a long history of trying to improve their creations by taking ideas from biology. The trendy and rapidly developing branch of artificial intelligence known as “deep learning”, for instance, takes much of its inspiration from the way biological brains are put together. The general idea of building computers to resemble brains is called neuromorphic computing, a term coined by Carver Mead, a pioneering computer scientist, in the late 1980s. There are many attractions. Brains may be slow and error-prone, but they are also robust, adaptable and frugal. They excel at processing the sort of noisy, uncertain data that are common in the real world but which tend to give ...

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Babbage: When AI meets reality

Print section UK Only Article:  standard article Fly Title:  Babbage Byline:  economist.com Main image:  20160730_mma902_107.jpg   Rubric:  How can artificial intelligence leave the lab and get down to business? Kenneth Cukier explores an innovative method with Tractable founder Alexandre Dalyac. Also, a new way to measure ancient oxygen is changing our understanding of evolution, and we crunch the numbers to reveal the long-term risks of air pollution Published:  20160727 Source:  Online extra Enabled

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