Photo: SpaceX CC0 (public domain)
This week we’ve got stories about SpaceX, a new AI that builds its own little AIs, and the vote this week that’s going to FUBAR the internet because Ajit Pai is a terrible human being. It’s the sci-tech roundup for Sunday, December 10, 2017.
It’s been a few minutes, so that must mean it’s about time to check in on Elon Musk and SpaceX! This week the company announced that the repairs to Launch Pad SLC-40, following the, um, Rapid Unplanned Disassembly that took place there back in September of 2016. They also took advantage of the rebuild to add some new features, including redundancies in the network of sensor cables beneath the pad (to remove a single point of failure in the old mode), a strongback that can withstand higher winds, and an erector that can lift a rocket to vertical in three minutes instead of twenty-five. The first static fire since the upgrades was performed on December 6 in advance of the NET December 12 launch of CRS-13, which will take supplies to the ISS. SLC-40 is going to be reserved for single-fuselage launches, with LC-39A taking all the planned Falcon Heavy launches. In related news, Elon claimed that the first cargo on a Falcon Heavy (because frankly they can’t put anything valuable on board something that stands such a high chance of RUD) is going to be his old Tesla roadster, playing “Space Oddity” the whole (potentially brief) way up. There’s been a little confusion over the story, but it seems to have, at length, been confirmed. You can read more about the improvements to SLC-40 at We Report Space.
AI That Builds AI
In a story that sounds a little potentially hazardous, Google Brain researchers have created an AI called AutoML that, well, builds new AIs. And (of course) it does it better than humans do. The way it works is that whenever it finds a task it can’t do—say, identifying things in photos—it builds a little, task-specific AI to do it for it. And they seem to work. According to Google, the little AI it built identified objects in photos about 1-3% better than any previous programs for doing the same. The only concern I have now is what’ll happen when we make an AI to design AIs that design AIs. Well, it’s probably best not to think about it. If you want to know more, you can read all the details over at Google’s Research Blog.
Well, the big day is approaching when FCC chairman Ajit Pai will repeal the net neutrality rules put in place by the previous administration, screwing up the internet for years to come. At this point Pai has proven himself immune to public opinion, logic, and requests from highly-placed figures like the New York Attorney General. No-one is asking for a repeal of net neutrality except companies like Comcast and Verizon, who despite claiming it won’t change anything (in which case, why are they lobbying for it??) are doing things like removing their “no paid prioritization” language from their website. Let me be frank:
Ajit Pai has time and again proven he only cares about one thing, and that’s handing supreme power over the internet to companies like Comcast, Verizon, Charter, and Time Warner at the literal expense of their consumers. There is no market in huge swathes of America, where it seems as though the companies that should be competing are instead working together to ensure that their customers have no recourse. Repealing net neutrality in this environment will mean that ISPs will be able to implement whatever changes they want, slow down whatever traffic they want, charge service fees however they want—and customers will have literally no options. Ajit Pai is in no sense a conservative, but rather a corporate monopolist who brings nothing positive to the FCC.
Anyway the internet’s going to be really unhappy on Tuesday, the vote happens on Thursday, it’ll go 2-1 against net neutrality, and then, sorry folks, but we’re f*cked.
Best of the Rest
Here’s some things you should know about that I’m not talking more about. It’s your weekly linkspam!
- A vulcanologist is running for Congress (and you should support her)
- Scott Pruitt doesn’t understand how science works and so wants to make teams to fight about things we’ve already decided
- The anti-GMO and anti-vaccine movements are merging because of course they are
- Facebook is preferentially defending the free speech of white men because of course it is, and
- Don’t read it because it’s misleading but this is why everyone’s talking about Bitcoin destroying the planet
That’s all for today, folks. Have the best week you can, under the circumstances.
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Richard Ford Burley is a human, YA author, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as Deputy Managing Editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.