We have been telling stories about machines with minds for almost three thousand years. In the Iliad, written around 800 BCE, Homer describes the oldest known AI: “golden handmaidens” created by Hephaestus, the disabled god of metalworking. They “seemed like living maidens” with “intelligence… voice and vigour”, and “bustled about supporting their master.” In the Odyssey, Homer […]
In 1997, Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, the reigning world chess champion. In 2011, Watson defeated Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, the world’s best Jeopardy players. In 2016, AlphaGo defeated Ke Jie, the world’s best Go player. In 2017, DeepMind unleashed AlphaZero, which trounced the world-champion computer programs at chess, Go, and shogi. Perhaps computers have moved so far beyond our intelligence that we should rely on them to make our important decisions. Nope.
I just watched WALL-E for the first time in five years or so. It’s the story of a plucky little robot tasked with cleaning up the world by compacting rubbish into blocks and building structures out of the blocks to minimize the amount of land they take up. Of course, he falls in love and saves the […]
Retired engineer Henry Pohl can vividly recall his first encounter with a rocket. During the early 1950s, the Army drafted him and shipped him from Texas to the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama. “That dadgum thing looked pretty simple,” he says of the rocket engine. It didn’t look much bigger than the tractor engine back […]
In 2019, the Cambridge Philosophical Society celebrates its 200th anniversary. When it was set up in 1819, Cambridge was not a place to do any kind of serious science. There were a few professors in scientific subjects but almost no proper laboratories or facilities. Students rarely attended lectures, and degrees were not awarded in the […]
Elizabeth Holmes was a chemical engineering student who dropped out of Stanford to found Theranos: a silicon-valley start-up company that, at one point, was valued at US$9 billion. Her plan was to be another Steve Jobs. Today, she is facing fraud and other criminal charges.
The hunt for exoplanets was inspired by advances in understanding of the formation of stars: it was becoming clear that the gases that were contracting to form new stars were somehow shedding the bulk of their energy of rotation, while new observations were revealing disks full of gas and dust, spinning around such forming stars, and containing a lot of energy of rotation.
“There are no aliens, officially, at least….” Elon Musk, writing on his Twitter account, is one of a number of smart technopreneurs who considers that if there is extraterrestrial life, it would most likely already be observing us, and, it will be technological. Artist and singer David Bowie came to a similar conclusion years ago, […]
In 2008, StoryCorps created World Listening Day for citizens of all beliefs and backgrounds to record, preserve, and share the stories of their lives. This year, we invite you to celebrate by listening to our podcast, The Oxford Comment.
Our planet is out of balance as the result of our technologies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global temperatures could reach a frightening plus +3° by the end of the century, our ocean ecosystems risk being overwhelmed by non-degrading plastic waste, open rubbish tips scar the landscape and pollute our water supplies […]
Steve Goodman is best known for his work DJing as Kode9 and running the Hyperdub record label, one of the pioneering forces of UK bass culture and dubstep since 2004. Through releases by Kode9 & The Spaceape, and Burial, Hyperdub captured a sound that embodied the high-pressure claustrophobia and hyper-surveillance of urban environments in the 21st Century.
All eyes are on the U.S. political landscape heading into the 2018 Midterm Elections in November. With all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and about one-third of Senate spots up for grabs, the next decade of politics lies in the hands of voters.
We live in the age of scientific optimism. Tomorrow’s new knowledge will vastly expand our understanding of ourselves and our mastery of the world. The flip side of scientific optimism, however, is that today’s knowledge is fraught with gaps and errors of which we are not yet aware. Furthermore, knowledge and understanding do not always grow gradually like the rings of a tree.
The Soviet Union launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik, into space in October 1957, initiating the scientific rivalry between the USSR and the United States at the height of the Cold War. In the subsequent decades, the Soviet and American space programs traded milestones as they each embarked upon manned space flight and the exploration of space.
With over 10 million active researchers, more than 2 million scientific articles published each year, and an uncontrolled spread of bibliometric indicators, contemporary science is undergoing a profound change that is modifying consolidated procedures, ethical principles that were deemed inalienable and traditional mechanisms for the validation of scientific outputs that have worked successfully for the last century.
The Democratic Party’s 2008 presidential primary was supposed to be the coronation of Hillary Clinton. She was the most well-known candidate, had the most support from the party establishment, and had, by far, the most financial resources.
The coronation went off script. Barack Obama, a black man with an unhelpful name, won the Democratic nomination and, then, the presidential election against Republican John McCain because the Obama campaign had a lot more going for it than Obama’s eloquence and charisma.