Artificial Intelligence, According to Google, Where Scent Is Made

Study to Examine Effects of Artificial Intelligence

Scientists have begun what they say will be a century-long study of the effects of artificial intelligence on society, including on the economy, war and crime, officials at Stanford University announced Monday.

The project, hosted by the university, is unusual not just because of its duration but because it seeks to track the effects of these technologies as they reshape the roles played by human beings in a broad range of endeavors.

“My take is that A.I. is taking over,” said Sebastian Thrun, a well-known roboticist who led the development of Google’s self-driving car. “A few humans might still be ‘in charge,’ but less and less so.”

Artificial intelligence describes computer systems that perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence and perception. In 2009, the president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Eric Horvitz, organized a meeting of computer scientists in California to discuss the possible ramifications of A.I. advances. The group concluded that the advances were largely positive and lauded the “relatively graceful” progress.

But now, in the wake of recent technological advances in computer vision, speech recognition and robotics, scientists say they are increasingly concerned that artificial intelligence technologies may permanently displace human workers, roboticize warfare and make of Orwellian surveillance techniques easier to develop, among other disastrous effects.

Dr. Horvitz, now the managing director of the Redmond, Wash., campus of Microsoft Research, last year approached John Hennessy, a computer scientist and president of Stanford University, about the idea of a long-term study that would chart the progress of artificial intelligence and its effect on society. Dr. Horvitz and his wife, Mary Horvitz, agreed to fund the initiative, called the “One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.”

In an interview, Dr. Horvitz said he was unconvinced by recent warnings that superintelligent machines were poised to outstrip human control and abilities. Instead, he believes these technologies will have positive and negative effects on society.

“Loss of control of A.I. systems has become a big concern,” he said. “It scares people.” Rather than simply dismiss these dystopian claims, he said, scientists instead must monitor and continually evaluate the technologies.

“Even if the anxieties are unwarranted, they need to be addressed,” Dr. Horvitz said.

He declined to divulge the size of his gift to Stanford, but said it was sufficient to fund the study for a century and suggested the amount might be increased in the future.

Dr. Horvitz will lead a committee with Russ Altman, a Stanford professor of bioengineering and computer science. The committee will include Barbara J. Grosz, a Harvard University computer scientist; Deirdre K. Mulligan, a lawyer and a professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley; Yoav Shoham, a professor of computer science at Stanford; Tom Mitchell, the chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University; and Alan Mackworth, a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia.

The committee will choose a panel of specialists who will produce a report on artificial intelligence and its effects that is to be published late in 2015.Ina white paper outlining the project, Dr. Horvitz described 18 areas that might be considered, including law, ethics, the economy, war and crime. Future reports will be produced at regular intervals.

Dr. Horvitz said that progress in the field of artificial intelligence had consistently been overestimated.

Indeed, news accounts in 1958 described a neural network circuit designed by Frank Rosenblatt, a psychologist at Cornell University. The Navy enthusiastically announced plans to build a “thinking machine” based on the circuits within a year for $100,000. It never happened.

Still, Dr. Horvitz acknowledged, the pace of technological change has accelerated, as has the reach of artificial intelligence. He cited Stuxnet, the malicious program developed by intelligence agencies to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, as an example.

“My grandmother would tell me stories about people running outside when they saw a plane fly over, it was so unusual,” he said. “Now, in a relatively few decades, our worry is about whether we are getting a salt-free meal when we take off from J.F.K. in a jumbo jet.”

Found at the NYT.



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What People Are Searching For, According to Google

Every December, as one year is about to give way to the next, Google reveals what we’ve searched for the most in the past 12 months. On Tuesday, the company published its 2014 Year in Search, formerly called Zeitgeist.

The data tracks what Internet users have typed into the empty rectangle on Google’s search engine—which as of October was processing two-thirds of all Internet searches—reflecting the news, events and topics of most interest and concern in the U.S. and around the world.

“In 2014, we were struck by the death of a beloved comedian, and watched news unfold about a horrific plane crash and a terrifying disease. We were captivated by the beautiful game, and had fun with birds, a bucket of ice, and a frozen princess,” writes Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president for Search, in a company blog post announcing the data.

Robin Williams topped the global top-trending searches list, followed by the World Cup, Ebola, and Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Rounding out the top 10 were the ALS ice bucket challenge, Flappy Bird, Conchita Wurst, ISIS, Frozenand the Sochi Olympics.

The list for U.S. top-trending searches list started out looking identical and included eight out of 10 of the same items, but it diverged at the bottom. Americans searched for Ferguson and Ukraine frequently, terms that replaced Conchita Wurst and the Sochi Olympics in the top 10, compared with the global list.

Google’s Year in Search also broke down its trending searches into various categories. Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, Tracy Morgan and Ray Rice topped the U.S. most-trending people list; Alibaba and GoPro were at the head of the trending IPOs pack; and Game of Thrones, No, You Shut Up!, True Detective and Orange Is the New Black were in the first four slots for trending television shows.

In the food and drink department, Americans were looking for the number of calories in a banana, pumpkin pie, an apple and an egg; Paleo, Atkins and Gluten-free were the top-trending diets; and chicken, meatloaf, banana bread and pancakes were the recipes we looked for most often. When it came to beer, people searched most for Budweiser, Keystone, Corona and Miller, while for cocktails, the most commonly sought after were margaritas, martinis, sangria and mojitos.

The U.S. top-trending Google doodles included the U.S. Valentine’s Day doodle, followed by the doodles for the World Cup 2014, the Winter Olympics and Rubik’s Cube.

Other U.S. list-topper highlights for 2014 were:

  • Most searched beauty question: How to get rid of acne

  • Most searched dog question: Why do dogs eat grass?

  • Top-trending memes search: Tim Howard memes

  • Top-trending natural events search: Hurricane Arthur

  • Most searched places on Google maps: Wal-Mart

  • Top-trending podcast search: Serial

  • Top-trending book search: Boy, Snow, Bird

More found HERE.


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Inside a Top-Secret Factory Where Scent Is Made

The concrete and glass headquarters don’t look like much, the sort of personality-devoid architecture you could find in any office park. It’s clever camouflage for the cutting edge Willy Wonka-style labworks within.

I’ve been following the scent of International Flavor and Fragrances (IFF) in Hazlet, New Jersey, for 10 days now. There’s a rumor that one company is responsible for perfecting the distinctive formulas of both Drakkar Noir and Cool Ranch Doritos, and I think I’ve found it. Of course, no one here is going to confirm who’s on the company’s top-secret client list. What I do know is that, with a little badge flashing and credential dropping, I’ve finally found my way in. I’m not sure what I’ll be shown, but I’ve been told I can’t photograph any of it. I’m just here to sniff.

In the spotless, light-filled lobby, there’s a promotional video playing on a loop: a man in a space-age lab coat sticking a loaf of crusty bread into an aroma-capturing device. My nose immediately detects a hint of my first crush’s perfume—a certain citrus with floral notes—and I wonder if her scent originated here. IFF, a multibillion-dollar international corporation, has fingerprints everywhere as the designer of flavor and scent profiles of many of the most popular products on the market, from the fruity rush that dazzles your tongue as you rip the head off a gummy bear to the pine-forest freshness wafting from a freshly cleaned toilet bowl.

The scientists who work here harness natural scents and meticulously reproduce them for commercial use. And they’ve been doing it for a while—the company’s roots go back to 1889, when two residents of the small Dutch town of Zutphen opened a concentrated fruit juice factory. The enterprise grew consistently and benefited from a cunning 1958 merger with van Ameringen-Haebler, a prominent U.S. flavor and scent maker. Back in 1974, IFF scientists created a synthetic version of ambergris, otherwise known as dried whale vomit, long prized as an essential for perfumes. In the ’90s, the company blasted a rose into space just to see if it would smell different in zero gravity. (It did!) Today, I’m hoping to get a peek at the art and chemistry of creating a distinct aroma and find out how they turn all those smells into billions of dollars.

Past reception, the long, dreary hallway feeds into a lush tropical rainforest. Housing some 2,000 plant species, IFF’s greenhouse—one of several dozen such facilities worldwide—is massive and immaculately kept. The humidity here is intense. There are orchids everywhere. I can hear what sounds like a small river. I almost expect to look up and see a macaque swinging over my head. The director of IFF’s Nature Inspired Fragrance Technologies program, Subha Patel, guides me along. This is her operation. “Everything in here has an odor, and you should smell every one of them,” Patel tells me as she parts low-hanging branches to lead me deeper in. This workspace feels like the Amazon (I would know, having grown up in South America).

Patel is soft-spoken and warm. She tells me she’s been with IFF for nearly 37 years, groomed as a prote?ge? of Braja Mookherjee, the IFF scientist who invented much of the technology the company uses to capture the scent of living things. As she talks, it’s clear she adores the plants she cultivates here. Although she has inhaled their blooms every day for decades, she still rel- ishes each aroma. At every step, she stops me. “Smell this,” she says, demonstrating the proper way to coax a plant into sharing its fragrance. She gently clutches its leaves, taking care not to crush them. Then, carefully letting them go, she raises her hand to her nose to take in the fragrance. “Smell this,” she repeats, a few paces later.

I sample a rare orchid from Madagascar labeled “white orchid” (one of Patel’s favorites), ylang-ylang (which smells like a musky animal), patchouli (“popular for men’s fragrances”), guava (which smells like stale cat pee or, as Subha puts it, “different and unique”). The most impressive is the chocolate flower, which could double for a Cadbury bar. It’s from these natural specimens that Patel and her team begin the work of creating an artificial smell or flavor.

More to read found HERE.


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