When movies become reality.
A New York Times report on Antarctica’s disintegration suggests we may be seeing scenarios previously thought “fit only for Hollywood disaster scripts” in the near future. So should we be preparing for a Day After Tomorrow ending soon?
“That movie focused on changing ocean currents in the Atlantic with some other unrealistic things,” Robin E. Bell, the lead Columbia University scientist of the expedition, gently chided in an email.
Bell and her team have spent the last two Antarctic summers flying over the world’s largest chunk of floating ice—the Ross Ice Shelf—measuring the rate at which it is melting. It’s still unclear what exactly is causing the warming of ocean waters, the New York Times‘ “Antarctic Dispatches” reports, but what is undeniable is that it’s directly leading to rapidly rising sea levels.
US President Donald Trump has concluded talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by promising to help broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but gave little indication of how he could revive negotiations that collapsed in 2014.
“It’s not easy. I have heard it is one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we are going to get there eventually. I hope,” Trump said after the meeting in west Jerusalem on Monday, without elaborating.
He chose to focus firmly on Iran, pledging he would never let Tehran acquire nuclear arms and saying the deal struck with Tehran by the Barack Obama administration needed fixing.
“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon – never ever – and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias,” Trump said earlier on Monday.
Trump also expressed hope on joining hands with Muslim leaders to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
“There are many things that can happen now […] that includes […] defeating the evils of terrorism and facing the threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering,” he said.
In his first foreign trip abroad as president, Donald Trump traveled this weekend to Saudi Arabia, where he signed a series of arms deals totaling $110 billion. This comes in addition to more than $115 billion offered in arms deals to Saudi Arabia by President Obama during his time in office. The deal also includes precision-guided munitions, which the Obama administration had stopped selling Saudi Arabia out of fear they would be used to bomb civilians amid the ongoing Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. Since 2015, 10,000 people have been killed in the ongoing fighting, which has also decimated the country’s health, water, sewage and sanitation systems. The arms deal includes tanks, artillery, ships, helicopters, a missile defense system and cybersecurity technology. We speak to Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CodePink and author of the book “Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection.”Democracy Now
Theresa May has announced a U-turn on her party’s social care policy by promising an “absolute limit” on the amount people will have to pay for their care but is not planning to say what level the cap will be set at before the election.
The prime minister’s decision came after Conservative party proposals to make people pay more of the costs of social care were branded a “dementia tax” – but she insisted it was simply a clarification.
EVERY YEAR, FACEBOOK gathers hundreds of developers, corporate allies, and members of the press to hear CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s vision of our shared near future. The gathering is known as “F8,” and this year’s iteration included some radical plans, one of which could’ve been pulled from a William Gibson novel: Facebook is working on a means of using your brain as an input device.
Such technology is still many years off, as is, apparently, Facebook’s willingness to publicly think through its very serious implications.
Details on how the Facebook brain/computer interface would function are scant, likely because the company hasn’t invented it yet. But it’s fair to say the company has already put a great deal of effort into considering what capabilities such an interface would have, and how it will be designed, judging from its press announcement: “We have taken a distinctly different, non-invasive and deeply scientific approach to building a brain-computer speech-to-text interface,” the company says, describing the project as “a silent speech interface with the speed and flexibility of voice and the privacy of text,” with a stated goal of allowing “100 words per minute, straight from the speech center of your brain.” This process will be executed “via non-invasive sensors that can be shipped at scale” using “optical imaging” that can poll “brain activity hundreds of times per second.”
“The privacy of text” is an interesting turn of phrase for Facebook, which has, like its competitor Google, built itself in to a multi-hundred-billion-dollar company more or less on the basis of text typed into a computer not being private but rather an excellent vector through which to target advertising. For its thought-to-text project, Facebook claims it’s built a team of “over 60 scientists, engineers and system integrators” from some of the most esteemed research universities around the U.S. (headed by a former DARPA director, no less). Privacy concerns drove some of the very first questions from journalists after the F8 announcement, including in this passage from The Verge:
[Facebook research director Regina] Dugan stresses that it’s not about invading your thoughts — an important disclaimer, given the public’s anxiety over privacy violations from social network’s as large as Facebook. Rather, “this is about decoding the words you’ve already decided to share by sending them to the speech center of your brain,” reads the company’s official announcement. “Think of it like this: You take many photos and choose to share only some of them. Similarly, you have many thoughts and choose to share only some of them.”
Facebook was clearly prepared to face at least some questions about the privacy impact of using the brain as an input source. So, then, a fair question even for this nascent technology is whether it too will be part of the company’s mammoth advertising machine, and I asked Facebook precisely that the day the tech was announced: Is Facebook able to, as of right now, make a commitment that user brain activity will not be used in any way for advertising purposes of any kind?