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The Librarian Reserve Corps: fighting COVID-19 with mediated information

Librarians have always been at the forefront of information needs and have provided critical assistance to patrons, public officials, and decision makers during uncertain times. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception and has created an urgent, unprecedented demand for access to knowledge that is accurate, reliable, and timely.

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Representation in Cognitive Science

What is “representation” in the human brain and AI systems?

Neuroscience is beginning to make sense of what’s going on inside the human brain—a seemingly inscrutable organ of even great complexity. We can now see what some patterns of activity are, and we have an inkling of what they are doing, of how they track the environment, and subserve behaviour.

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Multisensory Experiences

The senses in an increasingly digital world

We interact with the world around us with all our senses—such as sight, hearing, smell, but also much more! The senses are fundamental to our experiences. The research area of multisensory experiences considers the different human senses and their interactions when designing human experiences. This area is growing in academic fields such as Human-Computer Interaction, marketing, and the […]

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The AI Delusion by Gary Smith

Don’t blame AI for the A-Levels scandal

Many years ago, when I was a young assistant professor of economics, I had to endure a minor hazing ritual—serving for one year on the admissions committee for the PhD program. As a newbie, I was particularly impressed by a glowing letter of recommendation that began, “This is the best student I have had in […]

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Space for concern: Trump’s executive order on space resources

Among the bevy of executive actions undertaken by President Donald Trump during the COVID-19 crisis is, of all things, an executive order (issued on 6 April 2020) promoting the development of space resources, which states in part that: Americans should have the right to engage in commercial exploration, recovery, and use of resources in outer […]

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Why we like a good robot story

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 […]

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AI is dangerous, but not for the reasons you think.

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.

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Robot rats are the future of recycling

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 […]

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From the farm to rocket road: one engineer’s story

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 […]

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The Cambridge Philosophical Society

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 […]

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Theranos and the cult of personality in science and tech

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.

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The birth of exoplanetary science

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.

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There are no aliens… at least officially

“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, […]

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National Day of Listening [podcast]

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.

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Learning from nature to save the planet

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 […]

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