Stephen Hawking: Artificial Intelligence could spell end of human race


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World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC he believes future developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to eradicate mankind.

The Cambridge professor, who relies on a form of artificial intelligence to communicate, said if technology could match human capabilities “it would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”

He also said that due to biological limitations, there would be no way humans could match the speed of development of technology.

“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded,” he said.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease, and uses AI technology as part of a system which senses how he thinks and predicts which words he will use next.

His bleak forecast came in response to questions about updates to his AI communication systems.

His latest upgrade, developed by Intel Corporation over the past three years, will allow the professor to write up to 10 times faster and communicate more effectively with friends, family and students.

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“With the improvements made, I am now able to write much faster, and it means that I can continue to give lectures, write papers and books and, of course, speak with my family and friends more easily.”

“This new system is life changing for me, and I hope it will serve me well for the next 20 years,” he said.

Other technology specialists do not share Hawking’s grim outlook. Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot, said he believes mankind will maintain control over technology.

“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized,” he said.

Carpenter’s software responds to stimulation from conversations with actual humans, and has the capability to learn from its previous interactions.

Cleverbot has scored highly in the ‘Turing test’, which is designed to examine how closely machines can replicate human behavior.

We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” Carpenter added.

Technology and a rise in the capabilities of AI are already affecting workplaces nationwide, as many employers opt to invest in a machine, rather than hiring people.

In November, a study from the University of Oxford suggested that a third of UK jobs could be replaced by machines over the next two decades.

Low-paid jobs featuring repetitive tasks are most likely to be superseded by technology, with clerical and support service jobs most at risk.

The study further found that jobs with a salary under £30,000 are almost five times more likely to be replaced than jobs over £100,000.

Source : RT

China unveils Mars rover after India’s successful Mangalyaan


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Visitors to the 16th China International Industry Fair looks at a prototype of what a Chinese Mars rover would look like in Shanghai. 

Seeking to catch up with India’s Mangalyaan mission, China has unveiled its Mars rover being developed to scurry the Red Planet’s surface for signs of water and life and plans to test it in the rugged terrain of Tibet. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) has displayed the machine and the technological hardware set-up at an air show.

Photos of the rover’s prototype, to be displayed at the annual air show at Zhuai being attended by defence attaches of all countries including India, were carried by the state-run Xinhua news agency. The robotic rover was to crawl over the rough Martian terrain with a powerful six-wheel drive.

At a glace it looks similar to Yutu or Jade Rabbit that China has sent to Moon to explore the lunar surface. But the Chinese scientists carried out some significant design changes to deal with different environment on Mars, the Hong Kong based South China Morning Post reported. To beef up communication at longer distance, the rover carries on its back a large dish antenna, which was smaller and mounted at the neck on Yutu.

The wheels were also more solidly constructed than those on Yutu in order to deal with a rockier landscape. The entire Mars exploration system will include an orbiter, lander and the rover, CASC said. Some intriguing issues regarding the rover, such as whether it would carry a nuclear power source and the types of scientific payload on board, have still not been answered, the Post said.

Yutu was crippled soon after landing on the moon, probably due to low temperatures and fine dust. The average temperature on Mars is lower than that of the Moon due to its distance from the sun, and the notorious dust storms would also be imposing enormous challenge to the rover. Ouyang Ziyuan, chief scientist of China’s lunar project, told state media earlier this year that China’s second mission to Mars would be launched as early as 2020, and that by 2030 an unmanned spacecraft would return from the planet with samples. While Mangalyaan caught China by surprise, it fascinated them as it was sent with a modest budget of less than $100 million. With successful space missions to Moon as well as efforts to build a space station of its own, China also made a failed bid in 2011 to send its probe to Mars.

The satellite Yinghuo-1 was launched by a Russian rocket but failed to reach the orbit and was declared lost. The scientific community has high hopes from the Mars project as the planet, with its carbon-rich atmosphere and signs of water, was the most feasible one for eventual human settlement besides the Earth, the Post said. It added report that scientists were preparing for the project by looking for somewhat similar terrain on the Tibetan plateau to build a prototype of a Martian base with cutting-edge life-supporting equipment and technology. They also proposed growing worms with rich protein as a source of food supply for the first residents on the planet, the report said. The ambitious project, however, faces various hurdles as the government has not set an official time line due to political and technical concerns. China still lags behind Russia in some critical areas regarding space technology, such as large rockets and deep space communication, the Post report said.

The Mars project, believed to be more costly than China’s lunar missions, would also need to compete for money and sources with other equally ambitious projects being considered by the government. The country is reviewing proposals for landing a human on the moon and sending spacecrafts on three asteroids most likely to hit the earth, all scheduled to start around 2020.

Source : livemint

The Tech Executives Running the Commercial Space Race


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Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic company is reeling from the loss of SpaceShipTwo, which crashed in California’s Mojave desert on Friday, killing one of its pilots and seriously injuring the other. Branson, a billionaire business mogul whose Virgin group of companies have ranged from music to airlines to mobile phones, founded Virgin Galactic ten years ago with the aim of offering flights to the edge of space for anyone who could pay the $250,000 price tag. The future of Virgin’s commercial suborbital flight program is unclear in the wake of the tragic accident.

The 64-year-old Branson is not the only businessman in the space trade. Historically space and aviation have been a point of fascination for moguls who have made their fortune and want to accomplish something bigger. Eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, who made his name in the film business in the 1920s and 1930s, fixated on aerospace and aviation and built innovative airplanes and set air-speed flying records. And James Lick, a real estate tycoon, spent a fortune building a state-of-the-art telescope and observatory in 1876 in San Jose, California.

Today, the concept of space travel has proved an irresistible allure for many entrepreneurs who’ve made it in the tech world, and they have been spurred on by NASA’s increasing reliance on private companies to conduct space missions. The industry has been rocked by SpaceShipTwo’s crash coming just days after the explosion of an Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial supply rocket bound for the International Space Station. But the race for commercial space travel continues. Here’s a look at the major tech titans leading the way:

Elon Musk

The 43-year-old co-founder of PayPal and head of Tesla Motors launched Space Exploration Technologies Corp. in 2002 with the ultimate goal of developing the technology to allow humans to live on other planets. SpaceX, as it is known, designs, makes and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.

In 2012, Nasa hired SpaceX to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the International Space Station. The company’s spacecraft have since made five trips to the International Space Station and back, including four official resupply missions. The Hawthorne, California company has over 3,000 employees and operates three spacecraft: Dragon, Falcon Heavy and Falcon 8. Its Dragon spacecraft is expected to begin manned missions in the next two to three years.

Jeff Bezos

The 50-year-old co-founder of Amazon Inc. started Blue Origin in Kent, Washington state, in 2000 to develop technology to make human access to space easier. It is currently focused on developing rocket-powered vertical takeoff and landing vehicles for access to the edge of space and beyond. As of 2012 Blue Origin had received $22 million from Nasa.

Its crew and cargo vehicle, called New Shepard, is designed to eventually take tourists to suborbit. Last month, United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. that launches unmanned rockets, picked Blue Origin to develop a rocket engine that could eventually replace the Russian rocket engine used in many American unmanned launches.

Paul Allen

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder teamed with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan in 2004 on the experimental SpaceShipOne, which was launched from a special aircraft. It became the first privately financed, manned spacecraft to dash into space and later won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for accomplishing the feat twice in two weeks.

More recently, the 61-year-old’s Stratolaunch Systems, based in Hunstville, Alabama, is developing the world’s biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space. Called Thunderbolt, it is tentatively scheduled to launch in 2018. Stratolaunch is working with Orbital Sciences and Rutan’s Scaled Composites. SpaceShipTwo was piloted by Scaled Composites, under contract with Virgin Galactic, during this week’s fatal crash.

Jeff Greason

The rocket scientist and former Intel Corp. employee founded XCOR Aerospace in 1989. XCOR also is pursuing space tourism and hopes to conduct flight tests for its Lynx spaceship beginning in 2015. In September, XCOR was partner to the Federal Aviation Administration approving a commercial space launch license for Midland International Airport in Texas, where XCOR operates a research and development center. The 50-employee company is based at Mojave Air and Spaceport in Southern California and has built 13 different rocket engines and built and flown two manned rocket-powered aircraft – the EZ-Rocket and the X-Racer. Greason has served on the U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee.

Source : NDTV