philip lelyveld The world of entertainment technology


Kids are surrounded by AI. They should know how it works.

The student was one of 28 middle schoolers, ages 9 to 14, who participated in a pilot program this summer designed to teach them about AI. The curriculum, developed by Blakeley Payne, a graduate research assistant at the MIT Media Lab, is part of a broader initiative to make these concepts an integral part of middle school classrooms. She has since open-sourced the curriculum, which includes several interactive activities that help students discover how algorithms are developed and how those processes go on to affect people’s lives. ...

Algorithms as opinion

Payne’s curriculum includes a series of activities that prompt students to think about the subjectivity of algorithms. They begin by learning about algorithms as recipes, with inputs, a set of instructions, and outputs. The kids are then asked to “build,” or write down instructions, for an algorithm that outputs the best peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Very quickly, the kids in the summer pilot started to grasp the underlying lesson. “A student pulled me aside and asked, ‘Is this supposed to be opinion or fact?’” she says. Through their own discovery process, the students realized how they had unintentionally built their own preferences into their algorithms. ...

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China has started a grand experiment in AI education. It could reshape how the world learns.

Zhou Yi was terrible at math. He risked never getting into college. Then a company called Squirrel AI came to his middle school in Hangzhou, China, promising personalized tutoring. He had tried tutoring services before, but this one was different: instead of a human teacher, an AI algorithm would curate his lessons. The 13-year-old decided to give it a try. By the end of the semester, his test scores had risen from 50% to 62.5%. Two years later, he scored an 85% on his final middle school exam.

“I used to think math was terrifying,” he says. “But through tutoring, I realized it really isn’t that hard. It helped me take the first step down a different path.”

... As one of the largest AI education companies in China, Squirrel highlights this tension. And as one of the best-poised to spread overseas, it offers a window into how China’s experiments could shape the rest of the world. ...

“In three hours we understand students more than the three years spent by the best teachers.”

On screen, the teacher looks increasingly crestfallen and humiliated. “He looks so sad,” I say.

“You noticed!” Li laughs. ...

Li thinks this is the only way humanity will be able to elevate its collective intelligence. Entrusting teachers with anything else could risk “damaging geniuses.” He’s playing out this philosophy on his own kids, using Squirrel’s system as much as possible to train them. He boasts that his eight-year-old twin boys, in the second grade, are now learning eighth-grade physics, a testament that his method is working. “Only adaptive systems could make such miracles,” he says. ...

Squirrel is already exporting its technology abroad. It has cultivated its international reputation by appearing at some of the largest AI conferences around the world and bringing on reputable collaborators affiliated with MIT, Harvard, and other prestigious research institutes. Li has also recruited several Americans to serve on his executive team, with the intent of pushing into the US and Europe in the next two years. One of them is Tom Mitchell, the dean of computer science at Carnegie Mellon; ...

 “Innovation comes from difference,” he says. “That’s exactly what China lacks. If you are able to speak multiple languages, you are able to talk to different people; you are able to communicate different ideas.” ...

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Prison Contractor That Charges Inmates Sky-High Phone Fees Proposes Virtual Reality Visitation

As Vice first reported, Global Tel Link (GTL) recently filed a patent that describes a “system and method for personalized virtual reality experience in a controlled environment.” It continues, “A system and method for initiating a personalized virtual reality session via a virtual reality communication system in a controlled environment is disclosed.”

In effect, what this describes is a VR system by which incarcerated persons could interact with others outside the prison—VR visitation using digital avatars, basically. Other possible uses could be allowing inmates “for a brief time, imagine himself outside or away from the controlled environment.”

GTL obviously intends the ways in which this system can be used to be completely at the whims of prison officials, who typically surveil any venue of access to the outside. The patent describes a “monitoring system” that “continuously monitors visual information of the virtual reality session for any prohibited... actions performed by a user’s avatar that are determined by monitoring center to be inappropriate for a virtual reality session.”

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Facebook debuts its Ray-Ban Stories smart sunglasses

Facebook announced their long-awaited foray into the smart glasses space Thursday morning, launching the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses in partnership with eyewear giant EssilorLuxottica.

The svelte frames are some of the most low-profile yet available to consumers and will allow users to snap photos and videos with the two onboard 5 MP cameras, listen to music with in-frame speakers and take phone calls. The glasses need to be connected to an iOS or Android device for full functionality, though users can take and store hundreds of photos or dozens of videos on the glasses before transferring media to their phones via Facebook’s new View app. The twin cameras will allow users to add 3D effects to their photos and videos once they upload them to the app.

The lightweight glasses weigh less than 50 grams and come with a leather hardshell charging case. The battery lift is advertised as “all-day” which TechCrunch found to be accurate during our review of the frames.

Users will be able to control the glasses with a couple physical buttons including a “capture” button to record media and an on-off switch. A touch pad on the right arm of the glasses will allow users to perform functions like swiping to adjust the volume or answering a phone call. An onboard white LED will glow to indicate to the people around the wearer that a video is being recorded.

The glasses, notably, are neither waterproof nor splash-proof.

The glasses will start at $299, with polarized and transition lens options coming in at a higher price point.

The glasses notably do not have in-lens displays that will allow users to see digital augmented reality content like competitor Snap’s latest Spectacles prototype.

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Scientists Put Flies in ‘Virtual Reality’ to Explore How Vision Shapes Motion

A new study looking at the behavior of fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) in a 'virtual reality' setting offers up some clues – and it seems that conventional scientific wisdom on how vision and movement intertwine might be wrong.

The new experiments show that vision was used to prevent the flies from going off their intended course before it happened, rather than to get them back on track after they'd already deviated from a route – and that's a substantial difference.

...By treating the postural signals coming from elsewhere as less important when they could see where they were going, flies appeared to use their vision to preemptively keep their bodies on course. That suggests a very close link between sight and motor control.

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Rendever unveils its ‘RendeverFit’ Virtual Reality fitness platform for senior living and long-term care

Rendever, a provider of a virtual reality (VR) platform built to help seniors overcome social isolation through shared experiences, has announced the launch of its new interdisciplinary VR fitness platform, ‘RendeverFit’ – a VR application that merges physical fitness with cognitive fitness and socialization, designed specifically for older adults.

RendeverFit was created to combine physical activity with social engagement for senior living residents with physical activity and social engagement for older adults, both of which can help to improve overall physical and mental wellbeing, according to Rendever.

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National committee will advise the President on AI competition and ethics

The Biden administration's focus on science will include a strong emphasis on artificial intelligence. The Commerce Department, National AI Initiative Office and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy are forming a National Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee (NAIAC) to advise the President and federal officials on AI-related issues.

NAIAC will provide guidance on several AI concerns, including "competitiveness," employment, scientific progress, the viability of national strategy and future initiative revisions. The committee will also address ethical issues ranging from workforce equity to accountability and algorithmic bias.

Members will come from a "broad and interdisciplinary" pool including academics, companies, non-profits and federal labs. They'll be accepted on a continuous basis, with any eventual vacancies filled as they pop up.

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Australian media outlets liable for Facebook comments, court finds

Australia's biggest news publishers including Rupert Murdoch's the Australian are responsible for comments that readers post on their corporate Facebook pages, the High Court ruled on Wednesday.

"The acts of the (media companies) in facilitating, encouraging and thereby assisting the posting of comments by the third-party Facebook users rendered them publishers of those comments," Justice Rothman found.

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Federal Judge Rules AI-Enabled Machines Are Not Inventors

U.S. District judge Leonie Brinkema just ruled that an artificial intelligence-enabled computer cannot be listed as an inventor on patents and that only humans can be inventors under U.S. law. That’s because, according to Federal law, an “individual” must take an oath that he/she is the inventor and the term “individual” is legally defined as a natural person. The ruling was in response to University of Surrey law professor Ryan Abbott’s effort, the Artificial Inventor Project, to get a computer listed as an inventor.



Are Blockchain Networks Living Organisms?


  • Blockchain networks meet most of the traditional criteria for life.
  • Their combination with artificial neural network (ANN) based artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to the creation of a distributed blockchain organism.
  • Such a cybernetic organism could exhibit unique features: directed evolution, the ability to self-improve or an unlimited lifespan.


On the surface, calling a virtual blockchain network based on pure numerical relations a living organism seems absurd. However, on closer examination, it turns out that it meets most of the traditional criteria of what is alive and organic.

The obvious fact that blockchain is not a biological organism need not be seen as an imperfection. On the contrary, its non-material components represent the potential advantage and progress that blockchain technology can bring to the understanding and applications of such traditional concepts as an information carrier, evolution, inheritance, emergence, or self-organization.

Harnessing the unique properties of blockchain networks and combining them with artificial intelligence based on artificial neural networks could lead to a breakthrough. 

The result could be a unique organism – a public, blockchain-based, distributed virtual machine. It would potentially be capable of directed evolution, rapid self-improvement, and unlimited lifespan. Alternatively, it would go far beyond human cognitive abilities and intelligence.

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