My picks for 2008: Top 11 People and lists reporting on and/or predicting breakthroughs in Science and Technology. You’ll notice I cheated a lot; but, I still left a LOT of stuff out:
Original, August 11, 2008 New York Times
1. a person empowered to decide matters at issue; judge; umpire.
2. a person who has the sole or absolute power of judging or determining.
This is an oped about how human nature and the Network Age are forcing the corporate media to bend to our will, and our demand for choice in news, information and content. The web and related networking technologies, as this article points out, can be a powerful positive influence on their news gathering and dissemination; trying to interfere with it may be their downfall.
Emerging technologies that threaten to destroy the current paradigm can have precisely the opposite effect. Remember when VCRs and then DVDs were going to lay waste to the movie industry and ended up saving it instead? The Web leaks of entertainment that NBC bought and paid for served as a kind of trailer for the real thing.
There is a lesson there for rest of the media, most specifically The Philadelphia Inquirer, where the managing editor, Michael Leary, issued a memo last week suggesting that all of the paper’s good stuff — “signature investigative reporting, enterprise, trend stories, news features and reviews” — would not appear online until they first appear in print.
“For our bloggers, especially, this may require a bit of an adjustment,” Mr. Leary informed the staff. “Some of you like to try out ideas that end up as subjects of stories or columns in print first. If in doubt, consult your editor.”
Even to the eye of this reporter — to use a hack newspaper term — The Inquirer seems to be making a mistake. If the future of our business is online, then why set up a firewall, delaying the best content to protect a legacy product? And more adept reporters are beginning to realize that the Web is not just a way to broadcast news, it is a great way to assemble it as well.
Original, July 21, 2008 KurzweilAI.net
25 percent of the planet will be connected to the Internet by 2012, according to a Jupiter Research report, with highest growth rate in areas such as China, Russia, India and Brazil.
Many of these users will be able to understand each other’s language, says Ray Kurzweil.
He cites current developments in the speed and accuracy of statistical translation systems, which have improved exponentially in the past 10 years, such as Language Weaver’s automatic language translation software, which can now translate between 2,000 and 5,000 words per minute on a single CPU, using proprietary statistical translation algorithms. He also cites Apptek’s hybrid machine translation (HMT) system, which integrates statistical and rule-based processing.
Original, July 13, 2006 http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0683.html?printable=1
Of the three primary revolutions underlying the Singularity (G, N, and R), the most profound is R, which refers to the creation of nonbiological intelligence that exceeds that of unenhanced humans. A more intelligent process will inherently outcompete one that is less intelligent, making intelligence the most powerful force in the universe.
While the “R” in GNR stands for robotics, the real issue involved here is strong AI (artificial intelligence that exceedshuman intelligence). The standard reason for emphasizing robotics in this formulation is that intelligence needs an embodiment, a physical presence, to affect the world. I disagree with the emphasis on physical presence, however, for I believe that the central concern is intelligence. Intelligence will inherently find a way to influence the world, including creating its own means for embodiment and physical manipulation. Furthermore, we can include physical skills as a fundamental part of intelligence; a large portion of the human brain (the cerebellum, comprising more than half our neurons), for example, is devoted to coordinating our skills and muscles.
Artificial intelligence at human levels will necessarily greatly exceed human intelligence for several reasons. As I pointed out earlier machines can readily share their knowledge. As unenhanced humans we do not have the means of sharing the vast patterns of interneuronal connections andneurotransmitter-concentration levels that comprise ourlearning, knowledge, and skills, other than through slow,language-based communication. Of course, even this methodof communication has been very beneficial, as it has distinguished us from other animals and has been an enabling factor in the creation of technology.
Human skills are able to develop only in ways that have beenevolutionarily encouraged. Those skills, which are primarily based on massively parallel pattern recognition, provide proficiency for certain tasks, such as distinguishing faces, identifying objects, and recognizing language sounds. But they’re not suited for many others, such as determining patterns in financial data. Once we fully master pattern-recognition paradigms, machine methods can apply these techniques to any type of pattern.2
Original, August 5, 2008 http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=148199
UPDATE: After this story was originally published, Brian Ross (the lead ABC News reporter on the 2001 anthrax stories) offered comment via TVNewser — primarily to defend his original reporting and to contend that he was not duped by his sources. Meanwhile, CJR’s Justin Peters amplified the call for transparency from news organizations.
News organizations are accustomed to fending off demands from judges and law enforcement agencies that they reveal their confidential sources. But what happens when this demand comes from news-savvy bloggers? Currently, ABC News is facing this quandary. This blog “meme” was sparked by two noted journalism professors: Jay Rosen and Dan Gillmor, in response to Salon columnistGlenn Greenwald’s criticisms (Aug 1 and Aug 3) of ABC News’ coverage of the 2001 anthrax scare.