Thursday, August 10th, 2017


Cuke Box Hero

You've been reading a lot about artificial intelligence and machine learning, and this is just the beginning. So it's probably worth understanding exactly what these terms mean and how they're applied in the real world. To peel back the layers, let's go to a small, family run cucumber business in Japan. "Koike's father, Harumi, plants the seeds; Koike oversees their cultivation; and his mother, Masako, sorts the harvest. This last job is particularly important in Japan, which is famously discerning about its produce. Nice strawberries can fetch several dollars apiece in some markets, and a sublime cubic watermelon can go for hundreds." Here's the pickle the family found themselves in. It often takes Masako all day to go through a batch of 4,000 cucumbers. It's this sorting issue that needed to become more efficient. The first step was taking photos of a lot of cucumbers (and that's not a euphemism). Amos Zeeberg in The New Yorker: D.I.Y. Artificial Intelligence Comes to a Japanese Family Farm. If they can pull it off, they'll have more free time and be making a lot more cabbage.

+ OK, now that you have the basics, let's move onto a slightly more complicated example; understanding how AI could help your doctor to give you a more accurate diagnosis in a shorter amount of time. From Wired: Want a diagnosis tomorrow, not next year? Turn to AI.


It Takes Two to Make it Outta Sight

"The two-person rule, in place since World War II, requires that the actual order to launch be sent to two separate people. Each one has to decode and authenticate the message before taking action. In addition, anyone with nuclear weapons duties, in any branch of service, must routinely pass a Pentagon-mandated evaluation called the Personnel Reliability Program -- a battery of tests that assess several areas, including mental fitness, financial history, and physical and emotional well-being. There is no comparable restraint on the president." Scientific American explains why no one should have sole authority to launch a nuclear attack.

+ (Sort of) Related: Billionaire bunkers -- A look inside the world's largest doomsday shelters.


Guamanian Devil

"President Trump seemed to draw a red line Tuesday when he warned North Korea that continued threats against the United States would be met with 'fire and fury like the world has never seen.' The next day, North Korea crossed it." As the world's tension level increases, North Korea gets more specific about what it could do to Guam.

+ Meanwhile, Trump wondered aloud whether his fire and fury comments might not have been tough enough: "North Korea better get their act together or they are going to be in trouble like few nations have ever been in trouble ... Things will happen to them like they never thought possible, OK?"

+ NYT: Deep divisions emerge in Trump administration as North Korea threatens war. (It wasn't very long ago that you'd have assumed a headline like that came from The Onion.)


Havana Hard Time Hearing

"After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been attacked with an advanced sonic weapon that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences." From NY Mag: US Diplomats in Cuba Suffer Hearing Loss After Reported 'Sonic Attack.'"


The Drinking Age

"While underage drinking has declined in recent years, adult consumption increased across all demographics. The jump was also especially large for older Americans, minorities and people with lower levels of education and income." From Bloomberg: America's Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century.

+ "At least 17 states have enacted rules to curb the number of painkillers doctors can prescribe. Some, including Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio, have passed laws limiting the duration of initial opioid prescriptions to five or seven days." (The tricky part is reducing the amount of prescription opiates in the market without driving people to more dangerous replacements.)

+ President Trump declares the opioid crisis a national emergency.


Aim Canada

"The military-built camp would house hundreds of asylum seekers in heated tents fitted with flooring and electricity while they wait for their refugee applications to be processed, said a statement from the military." BBC with another headline you might not have expected to see: Canada military builds refugee camp for refugees from US. And a video piece: Why are these people fleeing the US for Canada?

+ Vox: Fewer immigrants are being deported under Trump than under Obama.


Bolling for Dollars

In a move that seems to be part of a troubling trend, Fox News' Eric Bolling has initiated lawsuit against reporter behind the story about Bolling's alleged sexting. Bolling is not suing the publication (HuffPo), but the reporter (Yashar Ali).

+ TechDirt, sued by the lawyer who fought Gawker, gets $250,000 to cover freedom of speech issues. (Full disclosure: I happily donated.)


Voice of Reason?

"After years of painstaking research in musical archives, early scientific journals and the classroom, Brilla and Paglin say they can deliver what medical science has failed to: a permanent fix for vocal burnout." Adele recently had to cancel some shows, and other singers have suffered similar problems. Are singers overworked, or are they singing wrong? An interesting examination from The Guardian: Why do stars like Adele keep losing their voice?


The Dog Days Aren’t Over

"For some animals in some captive contexts, it's extremely challenging, if at all possible, to give them mental stimulation even remotely approaching what they would experience if allowed their freedom." Like humans, animals from pigs to dogs can get bored. (Your dog is bored. You're cat is plotting.)


Bottom of the News

"Humans are also far more likely to 'literally cannot right now.' I have never met an automaton that literally could not, though I have met some that theoretically would not and hypothetically might want to stop." McSweeney's takes on the Google memo: I'm a Google manufacturing robot and I believe humans are biologically unfit to have jobs in tech.

+ Eater: What brands are actually behind Trader Joe's snacks?

+ In several European cities, people are marching and protesting against, well, you. The anti-tourism movement heats up as the summer does.

+ This is a bad way to start a soccer game.