Summary of “The AI boom is happening all over the world, and it’s accelerating quickly”

Just how fast the industry is moving, and to what end, is typically measured not just by actual product advancements and research milestones, but also by the prognostications and voiced concerns of AI leaders, futurists, academics, economists, and policymakers.
The first report, published last December, found that investment and work in AI was accelerated at an unprecedented rate and that, while progress in certain fields like limited game-playing and vision has been extraordinary, AI remains far behind in general intelligence tasks that would result in, say, total automation of more than a limited variety of jobs.
“There is no AI story without global perspective. The 2017 report was heavily skewed towards North American activities. This reflected a limited number of global partnerships, not an intrinsic bias,” reads the 2018 report’s introduction.
There’s an especially high concentration in Europe and Asia, with China, Japan, and South Korea leading Eastern countries in AI research paper publication, university enrollment, and patent applications.
When it comes to the type of AI activity, the report finds that machine learning and so-called probabilistic reasoning – or the type of cognition-related performance that lets a game-playing AI outsmart a human opponent – is far and away the leading research category by a number of published papers.
In a separate “Human-level milestones” section, the report breaks down some big 2018 milestones in fields like game-playing and medical diagnostics where progress is accelerating at surprising rates.
AI is increasingly being put to work by governments in situations that are ripe for abuse Google said it would pull out of the project once its contract expired, and it also published a wide-ranging set of AI ethics principles that included a pledge never to develop AI weaponry surveillance systems or to contribute to any project that violated “Widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.” But it’s clear that the leaders of Silicon Valley see AI as a prime business opportunity and such projects and contracts as the financial reward for participating in the AI research arms race.
Part of the philosophy behind the AI Index report is about asking the right questions and making sure that the people making policy, the public, and the leaders of the AI industry have data to make informed decisions.

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Summary of “Americans Are Weirdly Obsessed With Paper Towels”

The Top Five Countries by Per Capita Spending on Paper TowelsAverage U.S. dollars spent on paper towels in 2017, per resident.
While Euromonitor doesn’t have data on exactly how many paper towels Americans go through each year, Svetlana Uduslivaia, the company’s head of research, did tell me that Americans lead the world in the usage of “Tissue products,” the umbrella category that covers paper towels.
In explaining the U.S.’s enormous appetite for paper towels, Uduslivaia pointed to America’s relatively wealthy and large population.
“A strong economy can support more spending on nonessentials like paper towels and purchases of higher-quality products,” she told me.
Perhaps the paper towel satisfies some deeper, uniquely American desire to be immediately rid of a problem, whatever the cost.
The rest of the world gets by just fine without paper towels.
The report also captures the hold paper towels have on the American household.
“Meanwhile, homes with higher relative incomes rely more heavily on disposable options like paper towels.” Basically, Americans use so many paper towels because they can afford to.

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Summary of “Report: big tech is collecting children’s data at an alarming rate”

Along with those adorable photos, they are sharing crucial data about their children that big tech companies are harvesting.
In late November, Anne Longfield, England’s children’s commissioner – tasked with promoting and protecting the rights of children – published a report titled “Who Knows What About Me,” which examines how big tech collects data on children and what the potential dangers can be.
In the report, Longfield argues that parents are exposing their children’s data at an alarming rate.
The report calls on parents and schools to examine the type of gadgets children play with, like smart speakers, wifi-powered toys, and gaming apps, all of which are collecting data on kids.
Data shared by parents about children is collected at an alarming rate Potential dangers for children no longer just entail speeding cars and strangers with candy.
Smart devices are watching children too – and collecting their data Smart toys have already garnered plenty of criticism for leaving children’s data like location vulnerable.
Longfield writes in the report that “The amount of data inferred about children was of real concern.” Families are now being targeted with products because they are essentially being watched every time they’re online.
What will all this data on children mean for their future? While the report highlights current safety concerns for children’s data privacy, it also mentions some troubling future possibilities.

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Summary of “Three Remarkable Things About Michael Cohen’s Plea”

Read: What Michael Cohen’s guilty plea means for Trump.
So why would Mueller spend the time and resources on it? Because it tells a story about Trump and his campaign.
If Mueller thinks that the president has committed a federal crime, his remedy is to recommend impeachment in a report to the attorney general.
Did you catch the problem? The acting attorney general is Matthew Whitaker, Trump’s creature and a vigorous critic of Mueller’s investigation.
The journalist Marcy Wheeler has written extensively about her theory that Mueller will “Make his report” through court filings against Trump confederates like Manafort and Cohen.
Cohen’s case lets Mueller do the same thing-tell a story, make a report.
The information-the charging document to which Cohen pleaded, waiving his right to indictment by grand jury-asserts that the Trump Organization planned a hotel in Russia, communicated with Russian officials about it, and even contemplated sending Trump himself for a visit to Russia well into 2016, contrary to Cohen’s congressional testimony that the plan was abandoned in January 2016.
The third remarkable thing about Cohen’s plea was its substance.

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Summary of “Why Publish a Dire Federal Climate Report on Black Friday?”

It may seem like a funny report to dump on the public on Black Friday, when most Americans care more about recovering from Thanksgiving dinner than they do about adapting to the grave conclusions of climate science.
The report is blunt: Climate change is happening now, and humans are causing it.
“Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” declares its first sentence.
“The assumption that current and future climate conditions will resemble the recent past is no longer valid.”
The report tells this story, laying simple fact on simple fact so as to build a terrible edifice.
This trend “Can only be explained by the effects that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, have had on the climate,” the report says.
“It shows us that climate change is not a distant issue. It’s not about plants, or animals, or a future generation. It’s about us, living now,” says Katharine Hayhoe, an author of the report and an atmospheric scientist at Texas Tech University.
The report visits each region of the country, describing the local upheavals wrought by a global transformation.

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Summary of “The New York Review of Books”

It is no wonder that the planet’s carbon emissions, which had seemed to plateau in mid-decade, are again on the rise: preliminary figures indicate that a new record will be set in 2018.This is the backdrop against which the IPCC report arrives, written by ninety-one scientists from forty countries.
The burden of climate change falls first and heaviest on the poorest nations, who of course have done the least to cause the crisis.
The report provides few truly new insights for those who have been paying attention to the issue.
As the new report concedes, there is “No documented historical precedent” for change at the speed that the science requires.
Since the last IPCC report, a series of newspaper exposés has made it clear that the big oil companies knew all about climate change even before it became a public issue in the late 1980s, and that, instead of owning up to that knowledge, they sponsored an enormously expensive campaign to obfuscate the science.
The next Democratic primary season might allow a real climate champion to emerge who would back what the rising progressive star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called a “Green New Deal”; in turn a revitalized America could theoretically help lead the planet back to sanity.
In October, the attorney general for New York State filed suit against ExxonMobil, claiming the company defrauded shareholders by downplaying the risks of climate change.
If we keep doing that, climate change will no longer be a problem, because calling something a problem implies there’s still a solution.

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Summary of “‘We’ve never seen this’: massive Canadian glaciers shrinking rapidly”

Scientists in Canada have warned that massive glaciers in the Yukon territory are shrinking even faster than would be expected from a warming climate – and bringing dramatic changes to the region.
After a string of recent reports chronicling the demise of the ice fields, researchers hope that greater awareness will help the public better understand the rapid pace of climate change.
The rate of warming in the north is double that of the average global temperature increase, concluded the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its annual Arctic Report Card, which called the warming “Unprecedented”.
“The region is one of the hotspots for warming, which is something we’ve come to realize over the last 15 years,” said David Hik of Simon Fraser University.
In their recent State of the Mountains report published earlier in the summer, the Canadian Alpine Club found that the Saint Elias mountains – which span British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska – are losing ice faster than the rest of the country.
“What we’re seeing now feels like time travel into the future. Because as the massive glaciers are retreating, they’re causing a complete reorganization of the environment.”
“We’re seeing a 20% difference in area coverage of the glaciers in Kluane national park and reserve and the rest of the Unesco world heritage site ,” Diane Wilson, a field unit superintendent at Parks Canada, told the CBC. “We’ve never seen that. It’s outside the scope of normal.”
“Never before in human history have mountains been revered as they are today. Mountains are landscapes people adore – and with awareness, real change can be affected,” said Robinson.

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Summary of “New Ikea report finds that people don’t feel at home in their homes”

3 minute Read. Every year, Ikea Group and INGKA Holding publishes a research report on how people live in and relate to a specific aspect of their homes.
In other words, 35% of people who live in cities don’t feel at home in their house or apartment.
Almost a quarter of people who live with others feel more comfortable outside of their homes altogether.
On the other hand, people report a creeping unease with their living spaces: 53% of young families don’t get a sense of belonging from their residential home.
“Life at home is changing, profoundly, all over the world,” the report concludes.
As the writer Sarah Amandolare pointed out a few years ago, “Home” has become less permanent and more transient than ever, and, as a result, we’ve stopped thinking of our homes as “Self-expression.”
Ikea, of course, has a stake in helping people feel like they can create a sense of belonging, regardless of where home is-and a real shot at doing so, given its scale and ubiquity in cities.
Rather than suggesting a new sofa, the report ends with an interactive quiz that asks about how you feel at home, mapping your answers on a pictograph and offering you a personalized “Manifesto” of affirmations about finding alone time and building community.

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Summary of “Cyber Tests Showed ‘Nearly All’ New Pentagon Weapons Vulnerable To Attack, GAO Says”

Cyber Tests Showed ‘Nearly All’ New Pentagon Weapons Vulnerable To Attack, GAO Says “One test report indicated that the test team was able to guess an administrator password in nine seconds,” the Government Accountability Office says.
The flaws are highlighted in a new GAO report, which found the Pentagon is “Just beginning to grapple” with the scale of vulnerabilities in its weapons systems.
Drawing data from cybersecurity tests conducted on Department of Defense weapons systems from 2012 to 2017, the report says that by using “Relatively simple tools and techniques, testers were able to take control of systems and largely operate undetected” because of basic security vulnerabilities.
The GAO says the problems were widespread: “DOD testers routinely found mission critical cyber vulnerabilities in nearly all weapon systems that were under development.”
The GAO did so by going over data from the Pentagon’s own security tests of weapon systems that are under development.
Despite the steadily growing importance of computers and networks, the GAO says, the Pentagon has only recently made it a priority to ensure the cybersecurity of its weapons systems.
Part of the reason for the ongoing uncertainty, the GAO says, is that the Defense Department’s hacking and cyber tests have been “Limited in scope and sophistication.” While they posed as hackers the testers did not have free rein to attack contractors’ systems, nor did they have the time to spend months or years to focus on extracting data and gaining control over networks.
Still, the tests cited in the report found “Widespread examples of weaknesses in each of the four security objectives that cybersecurity tests normally examine: protect, detect, respond, and recover.”

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Summary of “The Dire Warnings of the United Nations’ Latest Climate-Change Report”

Since the 2009 United Nations climate talks, in Copenhagen, the consensus among scientists and policymakers has been that two degrees Celsius should be the limit; any further temperature increase would be catastrophic.
As a result, the final Paris Agreement declared that, while warming shall not surpass two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, countries should pursue “Efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C.” The Alliance of Small Island States also asked the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-the scientific body that informs the climate policies of the United Nations’ member states-to prepare a special report on the specific impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees, along with ways the world could feasibly keep the temperature from rising further.
The summary tells a nightmarish tale-one much worse than any of those in the I.P.C.C.’s previous reports-surveying the climate-change impacts we’re already experiencing with one degree of warming, and the severity of the impacts to come once we surpass 1.5 degrees of warming.
With two degrees of warming, three times as many insects, and twice as many plants and vertebrates, will lose their geographic range, when compared with warming of 1.5 degrees.
To keep warming at 1.5 degrees, governments and private businesses must make unprecedented changes-on a sweeping global scale-in energy systems, land management, building efficiency, industrial operations, shipping and aviation, and city-wide design.
“Human activities,” the report’s authors note, have already caused the global mean temperature to increase as much as 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, with greater warming in certain regions, and particularly in the Arctic.
If warming continues at its current rate, it could reach 1.5 degrees by the time a child who is now a toddler starts high school.
The rate of sea-level rise accelerates once the West Antarctic Ice Sheet hits its tipping point-likely set to occur somewhere between 1.5 and two degrees of warming, if it hasn’t occurred already-when physics demands the whole sheet will irreversibly disintegrate.

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