Do androids dream of electric sheep? Or, more to the point, do they know the difference between right and wrong?
That's the question the U.S. military is hoping to tackle, as it will hand out $7.5 million in grants over the next five years to researchers tasked with defining human morality, and then trying to instill it in autonomous robots.
"We are playing catch-up trying to figure out the ethical and legal implications" of rapidly-evolving autonomous technologies, Paul Bello, from the Office of Naval Research, told Defense One. "We do not want to be caught similarly flat-footed in any kind of military domain where lives are at stake."
In related news, the United Nations is hosting a summit on the possibility of killer robots. I'd like to go on record now as saying I, for one, welcome our new deadly, moral robot overlords.
"Storage is not sexy," said Raymond Wong at Mashable. But Samsung's new Portable SSD T1 drive offers both security and speed "in high style without going overboard." It packs an incredible terabyte of data storage in a drive the size of a business card, weighing less than an ounce. The drive is so small that "Samsung says you can slide it into a wallet." The compact drive will help security-minded users feel at ease, too, with some "real NSA-level protection." And unlike traditional hard drives, which have moving mechanical parts, the T1 is solid state, which means "it can be thrown around like a hot potato and the stored data will be safe." It's also fast — with the right equipment, you can transfer a 3GB file in eight seconds. But this high-capacity, high-speed drive also comes at a high-price: $599 for a whole terabyte, $299 for 500GB, and $179 for 250 GB.
Prosecutors have dropped an assault case against George Zimmerman after his ex-girlfriend, Brittany Brunelle, recanted her story.
State Attorney Phil Archer told The Associated Press he wouldn't file a formal charge against Zimmerman, because there were no other eyewitnesses from the alleged event. According to Brunelle's original statement, Zimmerman allegedly threw a wine bottle at her and destroyed her cellphone.
"While it is clear that the officers had probable cause to arrest Mr. Zimmerman... the subsequent recantation by the victim of her initial statement.. precludes my office from proceeding further," Archer said in a statement.
Zimmerman was arrested three weeks ago. Three days later, Brunelle asked in a statement that prosecutors not file charges against Zimmerman. She said that she "was under no pressure and had been offered no money" to make that statement, AP reports. The statement was released Friday by the State Attorney's Office.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the league has had a tough year at a news conference Friday, The Boston Globe reports. "It's been a year of humility and learning," he said.
This season has seen domestic abuse controversies involving Ray Rice hitting his now-wife, Janae Rice, and Adrian Peterson hitting his child. There's been considerable talk about the Washington Redskins' name, which many consider a racial slur. Medical concerns over players withstanding multiple concussions and, later in life, brain trauma, have grown. And most recently, the New England Patriots are under investigation for cheating for allegedly deflating footballs to gain an advantage to get into the Super Bowl.
On Deflategate, Goodell has no answers yet, though he did indicate the balls were tested at halftime of the AFC Championship matchup versus the Indianapolis Colts. "We will not compromise the investigation by engaging in speculation."
The commissioner also announced he's installing a chief medical officer in the league.
If you've got good digestive health, you could be making an easy $13,000 a year.
People infected with the bacteria C. difficile need fecal transplants to help their gut. Without constant antibiotics, sufferers may undergo "extreme gastrointestinal distress" and may even become housebound, The Washington Post reports. To help these patients, a company called OpenBiome delivers frozen stool transplants to those in need.
The healthy fecal transplants can be transferred to those with the C. difficile bacteria through endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules. According to the Post, OpenBiome has already shipped roughly 2,000 treatments to 185 hospitals nationwide. And it pays: Donors get $40 per sample, with an extra $50 for those who come in five days a week. So for a year's worth of donations, you could be looking at $13,000.
Don't get too excited, though: The donations have to be made on-site in Medford, Massachusetts, and only about four percent of prospective donors pass the "extensive medical questioning and stool testing," the Post notes. But if you make the cut, you'll be helping others in addition to making some fast cash.
"Everyone thinks it's great that they're making money doing such an easy thing," OpenBiome co-founder Carolyn Edelstein told the Post. "But they also love to hear us say, 'Look, your poop just helped this lady who's been sick for nine years go to her daughter's graduation.'"
Turn off Friends and step away from your laptop. A new University of Texas study says binge-watching shouldn't be considered a "harmless addiction."
People who experience depression and loneliness are more likely to binge-watch TV than others. Predictably, the same goes for people with low levels of self-control.
"When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others," said researcher Yoon Hi Sung. "Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously."
In other words, if you want a healthy social life, you might just have to stop trying to keep up with the Kardashians.
In early January, Vice President Joe Biden interrupted his vacation on the Caribbean island of St. Croix to make a one-day trip to Brazil for the inauguration of the country's president, Dilma Rousseff. Hotel and vehicle costs alone for the veep's single day visit totaled $421,000.
About $191,000 of that went to hotel costs, which is more than the median price of a house in the United States. While Biden clearly knows how to travel in style — his vehicle requirements included 22 cars, 28 vans, three trucks, one bus, and one SUV — maybe next time he could just use Skype?
In a memo from Provost Louise Lennihan, the school announced that as of this semester, professors should "eliminate the use of gendered salutations and references in correspondence to students, prospective students, and third parties. Accordingly, Mr. and Ms. should be omitted from salutations." Professors are encouraged to instead address people by their full first and last names.
While the school attributes the new policy to the legal requirements of Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination in education, this interpretation of the law's requirements is highly unusual, to say the least.
Weeks after hiking interest rates to an 11-year high, Russia unexpectedly cut them again, Bloomberg News reports.
The central bank lowered the benchmark rate from 17 percent to 15 percent. That sparked ruble sales, driving it down 4 percent against the dollar.
In 2014, the central bank raised the rate six times. Officials and business leaders have warned the economy will crash unless rates come down. Earlier in January, an aide to President Vladimir Putin called doing business "impossible" at the current interest rate.
In an 11 a.m. call with senior donors, Mitt Romney announced that despite heavy speculation that he would step into the 2016 race, he will not consider a presidential run. "After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I've decided it is best to give other leaders in the Party the opportunity to become our next nominee," Romney said.
The city of Boston fined Secretary of State John Kerry $50 this week when he didn't shovel the snow in front of his Beacon Hill home. Kerry was in Saudi Arabia for the funeral of King Abdullah, but that apparently wasn't a good enough reason to avoid being fined.
The Boston Globe reports that a snow removal company saw Kerry's house blocked off by yellow hazard tape, which was meant to warn pedestrians about falling snow and ice from the building's roof. But the company thought it was police tape, and didn't clear the walk. When they understood that they were indeed allowed to enter the area, the company cleared Kerry's sidewalk late Thursday morning.
"Diplomats — they're just like us," Kerry's spokesman Glen Johnson said to the Globe." The snow has all been shoveled now, the secretary will gladly pay the ticket, and let's hope this is the last blizzard of the year."