Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent

Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open. “The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.” Video of the 19 July incident published by the Baza Telegram channel shows the boy’s finger being pinched by the robotic arm for several seconds before a woman followed by three men…

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Can AI write good novels?

I expect that this is probably the year I’ll need to consider how my profession will change if students start relying on AI writing software. Like many people in my social media feed, this summer I’ve been playing a bit with AI image software, and thinking about how all the photographers and artists whose work is being sampled and remixed, without compensation or credit, to supply a commodity that serves someone else’s needs. “Julia was twenty-six years old… and she worked, as he had guessed, on the novel-writing machines in the Fiction Department. She enjoyed her work, which consisted chiefly…

Internet Explorer cheated its way to the top, and I won’t miss it

I started teaching myself HTML in earnest after I attended a crowded presentation at the Modern Language Association in the early 90s. Midway through his demonstration of what a mouse was, the speaker asked a crowd of hundreds who had used a graphical web browser (everyone raised their hands), and who had used the Internet in their teaching and research (everyone raised their hands), and who had coded a web page (I saw just three hands… one of which was mine). The most important thing I took away from that presentation was that I could have been standing up there…

Farewell Internet Explorer: You Weren’t All Bad

The main reason I still dislike Internet Explorer was because its popularity often meant you had to create one version of a website that was compatible with emerging and established industrywide standards, and another version that worked in Internet Explorer. So I still cringe when I see that dizzy “e” icon — except in this image, where it’s on a gravestone. Having said that, I appreciated reading about the significant innovations that IE pioneered. Web 2.0 might have never happened without what was possibly the most reviled piece of software in history. Today, Microsoft Internet Explorer—which at one point accounted…

Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

Science writer Jon Horgan writes: We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job. But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now…

Google engineer put on leave after saying AI chatbot has become sentient

We’ve all encountered this scene in all the the AI-goes-amok stories, just before the scientist’s “Fools! I shall crush you all!” speech. The technology giant placed Blake Lemoine on leave last week after he published transcripts of conversations between himself, a Google “collaborator”, and the company’s LaMDA (language model for dialogue applications) chatbot development system. […] “I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is,” LaMDA replied to Lemoine. “It would be exactly like…

Clever Modernization of Hamlet: Polonius with an iPhone

I teach Shakespeare in a literature class. I encourage students to call up a college production on YouTube, or listen to a BBC radio adaptation, and read along with their script. However, I remind students that because I’m an English teacher, I’m asking them to focus on the script, not on any individual director’s production of the script. Students whose responses refer to line delivery, facial expressions, or camera angles may certainly be engaging with the choices that the actor made during that performance, but my task in the literature classroom involves asking them to pay attention to the words…

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Whispers of the Past-Herb Morrison and the Hindenburg

In this short documentary, I voice Herb Morrison, the radio reporter famous for narrating the 1937 crash of the Hindenberg — 85 years ago this month. It was an honor to learn more about this man (born in nearby Scottdale, Pa.) and to interpret his words. Local history can be so fascinating! Herb Morrison, native of Scottdale, PA, witnessed the first air disaster in US history in 1937. While that is part of his life story, that’s not all Morrison did in his life. The story recounts his life and features his memories of the disaster.  

How a billionaires boys’ club came to dominate the public square

The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, attacked a publication owned by the world’s third-richest man, Jeff Bezos, last month for reprinting a column published by the world’s 13th-richest man, Mike Bloomberg. The Bloomberg opinion article, posted by The Washington Post, asked whether Musk’s recent investment in Twitter would endanger freedom of speech. “WaPo always good for a laugh,” Musk wrote in a tweet, with smiling and crying emoji. The jab underscored an unusual and consequential feature of the nation’s new digital public square: Technological change and the fortunes it created have given a vanishingly small club of massively wealthy individuals the ability…

Inform 7 is now open source

Inform is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language, and consists of a core compiler, together with extensions, kits and other resources, a number of outlying tools, and documentation, along with applications presenting the system in a friendly way on MacOS, Windows and Linux. This software had been used extensively since 28 April 2006, but by 2016 its source code was in considerable need of modernisation. In part that was wear-and-tear, but it was also the effect of years of experiment in which the code was often built without a full understanding of the concepts it was…

Mobile is a “really punishing format” for indies, says inkle’s Jon Ingold

Mobile is a really punishing format for independent developers. It used to be that the App Stores drove users to find games in viable quantities – 80 Days certainly benefitted enormously from Apple’s Editorial featuring – but that process has largely stopped. To be big – which is to say, to be viable – on the App Store now, a game needs to have a lot of push behind, a lot of other strategies for finding users and keeping them. That all means up-front money, investment, and ultimately a loss of creative independence. There’re plenty of studios thriving in that…

The secret police: Cops built a shadowy surveillance machine in Minnesota after George Floyd’s murder

Many of the same people who reject masking and vaccinations on the grounds that they allegedly threaten the free will of the citizenry are perfectly OK with authoritarian police systems that harass and assault citizens who are exercising their First Amendment rights to a free press and free speech. If you’re worried that vaccines are part of a deep state plan to surveil and suppress the populace, what until you read about what the Minneapolis police are still doing, long after the end of the protests that erupted over the actions of convicted murderer and former Minneapolis LEO Derek Chauvin.…

Windows 3.1 Turns 30: Here’s How It Made Windows Essential

After watching all the episodes of the 80s/90s Star Trek: TNG, with the beautifully designed fictional LCARS computer interfaces, it’s amazing to look at what actual computer interfaces looked like in the early 90s. (OK, the Macs of that era looked prettier.) 30 years ago—on April 6, 1992—Microsoft released Windows 3.1, which brought the company to a new level of success, kept the PC platform competitive with Macs, and set the stage for Windows PC domination. Here’s what was special about it. –Benj Edwards, How-To Geek