Clicks, Lies and Videotape

In April 2018 a new video of Barack Obama surfaced on the Internet. Against a backdrop that included both the American and presidential flags, it looked like many of his …

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Facebook Launches “Moon Shot” Effort to Decode Speech Direct from the Brain

As if Facebook wasn’t already pervasive enough in everyday life, the company’s newly formed Building 8 “moon shot” factory is working on a device they say would let people type …

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Goodbye, Phone Calls. Hello, Loneliness

The world’s first telephone call—“Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you”—was a request for a face-to-face meeting. I live in Boston, where Alexander Graham Bell made that historic …

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When Big Data Marketing Becomes Stalking

Many of us now expect our online activities to be recorded and analyzed, but we assume that the physical spaces we inhabit are different. The data-broker industry does not see …

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These Apps Don’t Exist Yet–but They Should

Ordinarily, I love transatlantic flights. Sure, there’s something magical about being transported to another land. But there’s also something deliciously self-indulgent about watching all the movies you want, without paying …

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When AI Steers Us Astray

As artificial-intelligence systems become widespread, the chances grow that their glitches will have dangerous consequences. For example, scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently fooled a Google-trained AI program …

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How Many Manatees Are There? There’s an Algorithm for That

Biologists trying to count endangered Antillean manatees in Costa Rica and Panama face a major challenge: the animals live in murky waters, making them virtually impossible to see. “I rowed …

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Algorithm Virtually Unfolds a Historical Letter without Unsealing It

In 1697 a legal professional in the French city of Lille wrote to his cousin in the Netherlands to request a relative’s death certificate, possibly in order to finalize an …

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Why Robots Must Learn to Tell Us “No”

HAL 9000, the sentient computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, offers an ominous glimpse of a future in which machines endowed with artificial intelligence reject human authority. After taking control …

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Urban Bungle: Atlanta Cyber Attack Puts Other Cities on Notice

Soon after Atlanta City Auditor Amanda Noble logged onto her work computer the morning of March 22, she knew something was wrong. The icons on her desktop looked different—in some …

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