Entries by Tucker Davey

How Self-Driving Cars Use Probability

Even though human drivers don’t consciously think in terms of probabilities, we observe our environment and make decisions based on the likelihood of certain things happening. A driver doesn’t calculate the probability that the sports car behind her will pass her, but through observing the car’s behavior and considering similar situations in the past, she […]

The Financial World of AI

Automated algorithms currently manage over half of trading volume in US equities, and as AI improves, it will continue to assume control over important financial decisions. But these systems aren’t foolproof. A small glitch could send shares plunging, potentially costing investors billions of dollars. For firms, the decision to accept this risk is simple. The […]

Silo Busting in AI Research

Artificial intelligence may seem like a computer science project, but if it’s going to successfully integrate with society, then social scientists must be more involved. Developing an intelligent machine is not merely a problem of modifying algorithms in a lab. These machines must be aligned with human values, and this requires a deep understanding of […]

Who is Responsible for Autonomous Weapons?

Consider the following wartime scenario: Hoping to spare the lives of soldiers, a country deploys an autonomous weapon to wipe out an enemy force. This robot has demonstrated military capabilities that far exceed even the best soldiers, but when it hits the ground, it gets confused. It can’t distinguish the civilians from the enemy soldiers […]

Cybersecurity and Machine Learning

When it comes to cybersecurity, no nation can afford to slack off. If a nation’s defense systems cannot anticipate how an attacker will try to fool them, then an especially clever attack could expose military secrets or use disguised malware to cause major networks to crash. A nation’s defense systems must keep up with the […]

Supervising AI Growth

When Apple released its software application, Siri, in 2011, iPhone users had high expectations for their intelligent personal assistants. Yet despite its impressive and growing capabilities, Siri often makes mistakes. The software’s imperfections highlight the clear limitations of current AI: today’s machine intelligence can’t understand the varied and changing needs and preferences of human life. […]

How Can AI Learn to Be Safe?

As artificial intelligence improves, machines will soon be equipped with intellectual and practical capabilities that surpass the smartest humans. But not only will machines be more capable than people, they will also be able to make themselves better. That is, these machines will understand their own design and how to improve it – or they […]

Sam Harris TED Talk: Can We Build AI Without Losing Control Over It?

The threat of uncontrolled artificial intelligence, Sam Harris argues in a recently released TED Talk, is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Yet most people “seem unable to marshal an appropriate emotional response to the dangers that lie ahead.” Harris, a neuroscientist, philosopher, and best-selling author, has thought a lot about this […]

Artificial Photosynthesis: Can We Harness the Energy of the Sun as Well as Plants?

In the early 1900s, the Italian chemist Giacomo Ciamician recognized that fossil fuel use was unsustainable. And like many of today’s environmentalists, he turned to nature for clues on developing renewable energy solutions, studying the chemistry of plants and their use of solar energy. He admired their unparalleled mastery of photochemical synthesis—the way they use light […]

Elon Musk’s Plan to Colonize Mars

In an announcement to the International Astronautical Congress on Tuesday, Elon Musk unveiled his Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). His goal: allow humans to colonize a city on Mars within the next 50 to 100 years. Speaking to an energetic crowd in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk explained that the alternative to staying on Earth, which is at […]

Developing Countries Can’t Afford Climate Change

Developing countries currently cannot sustain themselves, let alone grow, without relying heavily on fossil fuels. Global warming typically takes a back seat to feeding, housing, and employing these countries’ citizens. Yet the weather fluctuations and consequences of climate change are already impacting food growth in many of these countries. Is there a solution? Developing Countries […]

The Vicious Cycle of Ocean Currents and Global Warming: Slowing Thermohaline Circulation

The world’s oceans play a major role in mitigating the greenhouse effect, as they absorb roughly a quarter of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. As this atmospheric CO2 mixes with the ocean’s surface, it forms carbonic acid, and when carbon uptake occurs on a massive scale—as it has for the past few decades—the ocean acidifies. […]