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Apple’s Biggest Problem? My Mom – The New York Times

“The phone I have does just about everything I need,” she said when I called her to ask why she hadn’t upgraded to one of the newer models. “Why pay $800 for a new one just to be up to date? My needs aren’t that complicated.”

Most of the journalists who write about tech for a living (including me) are early adopters — power users who like having the latest gadgets, and who are willing to fork over money for a slightly better experience. For some of these people, Apple’s announcement has come as a shock that portends potential disaster for the company.

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/05/technology/apple-iphone-replacement-mom.html

This clever AI hid data from its creators to cheat at its appointed task – TechCrunch

Depending on how paranoid you are, this research from Stanford and Google will be either terrifying or fascinating. A machine learning agent intended to transform aerial images into street maps and back was found to be cheating by hiding information it would need later in “a nearly imperceptible, high-frequency signal.” Clever girl!

But in fact this occurrence, far from illustrating some kind of malign intelligence inherent to AI, simply reveals a problem with computers that has existed since they were invented: they do exactly what you tell them to do.

The intention of the researchers was, as you might guess, to accelerate and improve the process of turning satellite imagery into Google’s famously accurate maps. To that end the team was working with what’s called a CycleGAN — a neural network that learns to transform images of type X and Y into one another, as efficiently yet accurately as possible, through a great deal of experimentation

https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/31/this-clever-ai-hid-data-from-its-creators-to-cheat-at-its-appointed-task/

UK power stations’ electricity output lowest since 1994 | Environment | The Guardian

The output of British power stations fell this year to levels last seen almost a quarter of a century ago, while renewables achieved a record share of the UK electricity supply.

Electricity generation in 2018 was the lowest since 1994, when Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour party.

The reduced need for power came despite there being 8 million more people living in the UK. Analysts said the figures were a sign of increasingly efficient use of energy and the country’s changing economy.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/03/uk-power-stations-electricity-output-lowest-1994-renewables-record

Opinion | The Robots Have Descended on Trump Country – The New York Times

The growing use of work robots and the deployment of artificial intelligence have been most disruptive in just those areas of the country that provided President Trump with crucial margins of support in 2016.

In a paper that was published earlier this year, “Robots and Jobs: Evidence from U.S. Labor Markets,” Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, economists at M.I.T. and Boston University, demonstrate that the Midwest and sections of the South have far higher ratios of robots to population than other regions of the United States.

They calculate the job losses resulting from the addition of one robot in a “commuting zone.” Their bottom line: “one more robot in a commuting zone reduces employment by about six workers.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/opinion/robots-trump-country-jobs.html

Germany urges France to turn UN seat into EU one – TheLocal.de

“I realise this will take some convincing in Paris but it would be a bold and smart goal,” Scholz said in a wide-ranging Berlin speech on the future of the EU.

To lessen the pain of losing the powerful seat, France could become “the permanent EU ambassador to the United Nations”, added Scholz, who is also Germany’s vice-chancellor.

France has been one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council since the body was first established in 1945 in the wake of World War II to prevent another large-scale conflict.

https://www.thelocal.de/20181128/germany-urges-france-to-turn-un-seat-into-eu-one

Why Sweden’s cashless society is no longer a utopia | World Economic Forum

The Swedish retail payment market is rapidly moving away from using cash. The outstanding value of cash in circulation has dropped to 1% of Swedish GDP. This development raises some crucial issues regarding the state’s role in the payment market.

For hundreds of years, the public has been offered central bank notes and coins. If cash stopped working, it would leave all individuals to rely on the private sector for access to money and payment methods. It would be a historical change without precedence. The central bank of Sweden, the Riksbank, is therefore investigating the potential consequences of this change, including how to design a central bank digital currency, called the e-krona. But what is the e-krona exactly?

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/11/sweden-cashless-society-is-no-longer-a-utopia/

Government-subsidised plug-in cars may never have been charged – BBC News

Tens of thousands of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) bought with generous government grants may be burning as much fuel as combustion-engine cars.

Data compiled for the BBC suggests that such vehicles in corporate fleets averaged just 40 miles per gallon (mpg), when they could have done 130.

Many drivers may never have unwrapped their charging cables, The Miles Consultancy said.

Subsidies for new PHEVs were recently scrapped, after seven years.

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-46152853

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